When my parents moved away from New Jersey, I was sad for a few different reasons. No more quick weekend trips home whenever I was feeling needy, no more easy access to a car, having to find a new dentist, like an adult. Ya know, just some truly devastating inconveniences. But one thing I’m really missing in this cool, fall weather that’s finally arrived, is my favorite soup from Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, NJ – creamy tomato soup with ravioli.
This was my gateway soup, the soup that opened me up to more soup possibilities than your garden-variety chicken noodle. And listen, chicken noodle soup is a workhorse and it’s a very good soup, don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t have the pizzazz that a creamy tomato soup does. Yes, it is a comfort food in it’s own right, but these two soups are for different types of comfort. Chicken noodle is for nursing you back to health or for a light lunch. Creamy tomato is for sticking to your bones or for hunkering down on a rainy Sunday under a comforter, with a crime thriller (I don’t know, maybe something like Zodiac, just throwin’ it out there, this isn’t what I did last Sunday or anything), and a slightly-fuller-than-it-should-be glass of red.
A creamy tomato soup is velvety smooth and dreamily rich, and this particular soup happens to be dotted with swimming carb-parcels filled with luscious ricotta cheese.
So you can see my disappointment, to put it lightly, at being so far removed from this highly slurp-able home comfort. My grandparents used to bring several quarts home from their trips to see us in New Jersey, to be on call in the freezer whenever it was needed, which is what I started doing as soon as I moved to Brooklyn. I readily grabbed a container when I was in the area in June, to be portioned out as soon as cold weather hit, only to have to eat it in August when my section of the freezer became unmanageable and I needed room for fresher goods. Darn me and my well-stocked freezer!
As I rinsed out the plastic quart container in August, I looked at the label and my eyes lingered on the ingredient list. A lightbulb went off, as if the idea to make my own creamy tomato soup with ravioli was ingenious, like something I’ve never done before. Lol, it’s not like I have a food blog or anything. As if it wasn’t clear enough how obvious of a solution this was, the reaction from my dad when I giddily told him that I was going to develop my own recipe for the soup was, “Oh right, that one, yeah…just a creamy tomato soup with some ravioli added, right?”
Dad! It’s more than just that! I had to decipher what they meant when they listed “spices” on the ingredients list! Which, by the way, I don’t think I got quite right. But, to state the obvious again, nobody ever gets it exactly right. We’re all just trying our best out here, in lands far away from our homes and our favorite specialty markets. What I made is a very close cousin of Market Basket’s soup, and I’m completely pleased with myself. The good news for you is that when you make this, you’ll likely never have had the Market Basket creamy tomato soup with ravioli and my soup will become that soup to you and you’ll love it and crave and each and every time you make it, which will be often because it’s so very easy, you’ll think of me and you’ll thank me. And guys? You’re welcome.
Creamy Tomato Soup with Ravioli
Yields: 2 quarts
1 large yellow onion, or 2 smaller onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cups chicken stock
30 ounces tomato sauce (2 15-oz cans)
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme, a pinch or two of leaves reserved
1-2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed if possible
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to season
A few grinds of fresh pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¾ cup half + half
1 10-oz package of cheese ravioli*
Little bit of olive oil
*I used tortellini this time because I couldn’t find cheese ravioli. Either works well!
- In a large pot of salted water, boil water and cook the ravioli 2-3 minutes less than the package’s instructions. Drain the pasta quickly to retain a little of the pasta water if possible and put in a medium bowl. Toss lightly with olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking.
- Tie the fresh thyme, fresh oregano, and bay leaf together with kitchen twine, with one side of the twine long enough to hang over the pot. This is your bouquet garni.
- In a large, heavy bottomed pot (like a Dutch oven), melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just about translucent.
- Add the garlic and stir on and off for a minute or two.
- Switch to a whisk, and add the flour, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes, or until all of the flour looks cooked through. Add nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Whisk in the chicken broth and keep whisking until it thickens slightly. Add the tomato sauce, the bouquet garni (with the long side of the twine hanging out over the pot for easy retrieval), the fennels seeds, the dried oregano, the loose fresh thyme leaves, the red pepper flakes, another ½ teaspoon of salt, and a few more grinds of pepper to the pot.
- Cook the soup over medium-low for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. I keep my lid on, slightly ajar.
- Remove the bouquet garni. If you have a stick blender, you can use it here to blitz your soup to make it smooth. You can also use a regular blender, working in batches with the blender lid ajar for escaping steam. You can also skip this step and leave your creamy soup with a little texture of the onions, garlic, and spices. To make it extra smooth, pass the soup through a fine mesh sieve after blending. I find this unnecessary considering we’re using tomato sauce.
- Next, add the half + half and the ravioli. Stir it all together, check for seasonings, and allow it to sit for another 5 minutes to heat through.
- Serve with warm, crusty bread (maybe this one?), and maybe a nice simple salad, and tuck in, friends.