Season’s Eatings: Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheesy Dumplings
Move over, grilled cheese—there’s a new kid-friendly partner for tomato soup in town! Fluffy, filling, and fun, cheesy dumplings poached right in the soup give the classic combo a tasty new twist (full recipe below). Because we want to hold onto summer just a little bit longer, our soup is made with juicy, fresh tomatoes. But you could certainly make a fabulous version with canned tomatoes instead if you’re having a hard time finding fruit worthy of your pot. Either way, this meal is healthy fall comfort to the max.
The ingredients for this soup are so simple and so healthy—hooray! Be sure you use delicious, juicy tomatoes like heirlooms, Early Girls, or similar. (Romas are too thick/not juicy enough.) Bonus points if you use basil you grew with your kiddo this summer.
Combine a few basic pantry/refrigerator staples and you’ll have a pile of yummy dumplings at your service. You’re welcome to add chopped herbs, swap another cheese (such as mozzarella or Parmesan) for the cheddar, or use half whole wheat and half white flour.
Most grocery stores still have a variety of good tomatoes available right now—which means it’s a great time to make a big batch of soup (or three!) and freeze it so that you can enjoy all that fresh flavor later this winter, too. Prepare the soup with the dumplings before freezing if you’d like to have a complete meal ready and waiting. If time allows, though, we advise freezing the soup-base only and then cooking the dumplings fresh when you’re ready to eat.
Public service announcement: When hot food is inside a blender jar with the lid on top, the food heats the air between itself and the lid and causes steam/pressure to build up. When you start the blender, the pressure can blow the lid off the jar and hurl hot liquid all over you and your walls.
To avoid a painful and messy explosion, follow these guidelines:
- Only fill your blender halfway or less.
- Place the lid firmly on top, but remove the lid’s center insert (feeder cap) so that steam can escape.
- Hold a kitchen towel over the opening—steam will escape through it and under the edges.
- Purée the food on the lowest speed or in quick, short bursts until smooth.
In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches them important social skills (like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you”) and how to listen to their own hunger cues. Allowing them to get in on the serving action can also inspire them to try new foods, like a textural, fresh tomato soup rather than the smooth stuff from a can!
The pot will be a scorcher when you remove it from the oven, so we suggest transferring the goods to another pot or tureen before placing it on the table—that way, kiddos can safely ladle soup into their own bowl. Children can also add their own swirl of cream or sprinkle of chopped green stuff (a.k.a. fresh herbs).
Sure, there will likely be some spills when children take the lead, but also lots of smiles.
Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheesy Dumplings
Total time: About 1½ hours
* Soup recipe adapted from the Splendid Table and dumpling recipe adapted from Betty Crocker.
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium sweet onions, chopped
- 2 unpeeled carrots, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
- 2½ cups chicken or veggie broth
- ¼ cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
- 15 medium or 10 large ripe tomatoes (heirloom or similar, not Roma), cored and coarsely chopped, with juices
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: Heavy cream and chopped parsley or basil, for serving
For the dumplings:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup milk
1. Make the soup: Pour the olive oil in a large soup pot and heat on medium until the oil is shimmery and runs like water. Add the onions and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute.
3. Stir in the sugar, tomato paste, broth, basil, and tomatoes with their juices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer, about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and the soup tastes mellow but still fresh. Adjust seasonings to taste.
4. While the soup cooks, adjust your oven racks to accommodate a large pot, preheat the oven to 350°F, and prepare the dumpling batter: Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Using a pastry cutter (or two knives), cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Add the cheddar cheese and stir gently to combine. Add the milk and stir until the mixture is just moistened. Set aside.
5. Let the soup cool a little (about 5–10 minutes) and then purée two-thirds of it in a blender or food processor (see directions above for how to safely purée hot liquids). Add the blended soup back to the pot and stir to combine—if your pot isn’t oven-safe, transfer the soup to a taller vessel that is.
6. Drop the dumpling batter into the soup by the tablespoonful. Cover the pot with a lid or foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 18–23 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through and fluffy.
7. Remove the soup from the oven and ladle out servings of soup and dumplings into individual bowls. Stir in a spoonful of cream and garnish with chopped basil or parsley, if desired. Enjoy!