This recipe is based on a soup that I remember loving as a kid, commonly known as Mama Leone’s Chicken Soup. It always seemed to be available in grocery stores, so I ate it a lot on the many road trips my family made, especially when we travelled to Eugene, Oregon. I had a recent craving for it, but I haven’t been able to find it readily available in stores, and when I looked up recipes online, I was sorely disappointed in what I was able to find. So, I sought out to make a soup that mimicked what my taste buds remembered from childhood, then I pushed it even further to make it reflect more flavors that I love now as an adult. It’s safe to say that what I’ve concocted is quite different from anything you might find calling itself “Mama Leone’s.” What I’ve ended up with is a creamy, spicy, and slightly smoky soup base with moments of satisfying acidity alongside gentle floral citrus stemming from the soup’s two star ingredients: tomatoes and orange zest.
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- ½ cup dry sherry
- 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice (fire roasted preferred)
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried
- 1 tsp dried tarragon
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp red chili flakes
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 cloves of garlic, skins removed, thinly sliced
- ½ tsp orange zest
- Salt to taste
Preheat a soup pot on the stove to medium heat, then add the butter and onions. Cook until translucent. Deglaze the pot with sherry and cook it until the smell of alcohol vanishes; this should take a couple of minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes, smoked paprika, basil, tarragon, black pepper, and chili flakes, then simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld and the fresh tomatoes to break down a bit.
Once the tomato mixture in your pot has reduced a bit and turned a deeper shade of red, add your stock and bring everything up to a simmer. Allow the simmering to continue on low heat for at least half an hour.
Right before serving, take the soup off the heat and add the cream, garlic, and orange zest, then stir to incorporate. Let the soup sit for a couple minutes so that the garlic and orange zest can infuse a bit. Add salt to taste, then serve. Garnishes we like are fresh basil or parsley along with some more freshly ground pepper.
The soup is delicious as is, but if you want to make it heartier (which we usually do), we like adding a carb to it. When serving, plop about a cup of pre-cooked rice into your bowl along with it. It tastes great, plus it matches the texture of the soup. Orzo or some other small variety of pasta would be a good addition to this as well if you wanted to use something else. Add a protein of choice (we prefer chicken) if you like, and you’re good to go.
Pro tip: this soup is even better the day after and makes for an immensely satisfying lunch; like, damn.