It might not be the prettiest, but this puréed soup more than makes up for its homely appearance with the deep flavors of roasted broccoli and extra-sharp cheddar cheese, and a creamy yet cream-free texture. Best of all, it all comes together in about 30 minutes, making it a quick and easy weeknight dinner option.
This soup was born on a hungry weeknight, when I was looking for a meal made with ingredients I almost always keep on hand. When cool-weather vegetables start dominating the farmers market, my crisper always holds bunches of dark-green broccoli and fat, sandy leeks. My husband's life-long devotion to extra-sharp white cheddar cheese means there is always a block in the cheese drawer. And there's always a potato lurking around the kitchen somewhere.
But the beauty of this soup — and of soup in general — is its flexibility. I've made it with vegetable stock, chicken stock, and plain water. I've skimped on the broccoli and used more potato. I've started with onion or green garlic in place of the leek. And every rendition is good: creamy, bursting with broccoli, with a sharp edge of cheddar peeking out.
Roasting the broccoli adds a depth that plain boiled broccoli just doesn't have. If you are using a bunch of broccoli with stalks that are tender and sweet, chop up the excess stalks and roast them as well. If you love roasted broccoli as much as I do, it might be difficult to resist chowing down on the whole pan, but a bowl of this soup is a reward worth waiting for — especially since you won't have long to wait.
One of my husband's favorite soups happens to be broccoli-cheddar, but I rarely make it, as most recipes are decadent, cream-laced affairs that are better off saved for special occasions. This is the perfect lightened-up version — free of butter, heavy cream, and milk. Instead, the starch of a potato adds body, and a big handful of extra-sharp cheddar adds flavor and creaminess.
To make this soup not only wholesome but also easy, I've added the option of using a bag of frozen broccoli instead of chopping up a head. I also upped the amount of broccoli used to ensure the soup wasn't too thin, which was a concern of some previous commenters.
- Sheela, December 2017
Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
Serves 4 to 6
medium leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced
medium Yukon Gold potato
(16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli, or 1 large bunch broccoli (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets and stems discarded or saved for another use
low-sodium vegetable broth, low-sodium chicken broth, or water
shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper
Crème fraîche, plain yogurt, or lemon wedge, for serving
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450°F. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and chop the potato into 1-inch chunks.
Add the broth or water and potato to the pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, spread the broccoli out onto 2 baking pans. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the broccoli, sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and pepper, and roast for 5 minutes. Stir the broccoli and return to the oven for 5 minutes more.
Once the soup is boiling, add the broccoli and return to a boil. Reduce the heat as needed and simmer until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Purée soup with an immersion blender or in batches with a regular blender. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Serve topped with a small dollop of crème fraîche or yogurt, or a squeeze of lemon, and finish with a grind of fresh pepper.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
This recipe has been updated. Originally published October 2011.