Tomato Soup……pretty sure it isn’t Italian

Winter is starting to lick the heels of Autumn, any day now we will loose the warm days and be struck down with blowing cold winds and snow capped mountains in the distance. We have had a few days where I’ve managed to drag the wooly coat out and walk down the hill but you know it’s not really winter when you are finally at the bottom of the hill and you’ve stripped off down to your knickers because you are boiling hot. I don’t know how the Italians do it? I see them wrapped in scarves, thrice round their necks; big thick coats and long boots all walking along like they have just stepped out of the salon and here is me in a long sleeve top under my coat (minus scarf, boots & gloves) and I’m boiling from the inside out!

Despite my coat being just a bit too hot for me right now I am cooking winter warmers. My family loves soup and I have made quite a bit of the Tuscan variety, however, I am getting cries from the boys regarding their favourites- pumpkin soup and tomato soup. I’d love to make pumpkin soup, however, I am lacking in the blender department and I’m not one for chunky pumpkin soup so tomato it was.

Shelly went on a trip with a friend of hers to Umbria last week and I was lucky enough to score some delicious sweet cipolle which are a real treat.


I knew they would be perfect for my tomato soup, slowly sauteed with garlic, olive oil and sea salt for ultimate flavour. I have a new found love in the kitchen at the moment and it is Sicilian grey sea salt. The flavour is very soft, light and compliments the cooking process beautifully. I love to saute my onions with more olive oil than I usually would use and a good size teaspoon of this salt. It sets the flavour base for many a yummy meal and allows me to adjust the seasoning throughout instead of right at the end, which I am noticing is a very Tuscan way to cook.


Tomato soup would have to be the simplest of all the soups, every time I make it I wonder if I have done it correctly because it is pretty much over before I start. Once I have the onions and garlic soft and breaking apart slightly I then add a bottle of passata (smooth tomato sauce with no additives) and two tins of whole peeled tomatoes, roughly diced. Once they are added and brought to a boil, I reduce the temperature to a simmer, add a teaspoon of pepper, tablespoon wine vinegar (red or white), 1/2 cup water and then simmer for about 30 minutes.


Just before I’m about to serve I’ll add a dash of cream, check the seasoning and then if I’m after a bit more of a treat, I’ll serve it with pesto parmesan bread. A lunch fit for a king…….or at the least two very hungry school boys!


I know it isn’t typical Italian cuisine but I am wondering if I could serve this to the locals and get away with it?


Tuscan bean soup……..or was that bean and vegetable soup?

As the temperature starts to drop gradually and the evenings are longer I am starting to want to be in the kitchen more and more, however, I am also missing all the pots, pans and tools I am so use to reaching for without a moments thought. We were at the supermarket the other day and I spotted some young cavolo nero which got me thinking of Tuscan soup, which then made me wander over to the meat section and pick out a good piece of speck. I may not have my food processors or mixers with me but I do whip up a pretty good Tuscan bean soup. 

I’m not sure if the locals would agree, so when I was asked the other day what I was making I stuck with ‘Oh just a bean and vegetable soup’- what a wimp I am! For a split second I wanted to say Tuscan bean soup but then what if they tasted it and said “This isn’t Tuscan!?” That to me would be a big ego punch and I am not quite ready for that right now, therefor, I am calling it my bean and veggie soup that just happens to taste, so, so yummy and maybe, just maybe even a little bit Tuscan?

I love the way the speck looks raw, not sure why, maybe it is the thought of those yummy sweet meat smells combined with onion and olive oil on a low heat that sends me salivating?


Whatever it is, I am a big fan. Ok, so once I have all my veggies chopped into small cubes (I mean you need to put a little bit of effort in here because you will see the end result when eating) and my beans all cooked off I then check out how the speck and onions are going before I add all the veggies and garlic.

When you’re building flavours the best thing to do is layer your cooking so you lock in every flavour to compliment all the others, there is no point throwing it all together and then waiting for something amazing to happen- it wont!

Because the onions and speck have been simmering slowly in the olive oil, the oil tastes delicious and is ready to attach itself to all the new veggies I am adding and creating a really flavoursome soup.Image

On a quick side note: I soak my cannellini beans the night before in cold water, throw out the water and then bring them to a boil with new cold water the following day and without salt because I read somewhere that salt makes the beans tough.

Right, now that all the veggies are in and starting to warm I add thinly sliced garlic, a couple pieces of parmesan rind, salt and pepper. The kitchen smells fabulous and hunger pangs kick in so then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once it has come to the boil, simmer for about 5 minutes and then throw in the pre cooked beans, small diced potatoes and simmer again for another 5 minutes to cook the potatoes.Image

It was around this time when I decided I needed a bigger pot.Image


When everything is finished I like to leave the soup for a day so the flavours can meld together. When serving I add a few chilli flakes and a good grate of parmesan cheese for extreme yumminess and as you can see, you really do have mountains of delicious and healthy soup everyone will love.