This luscious, slightly smoky Creamy Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Basil Pesto Soup is wonderful served warm or chilled. When you taste it’s full-bodied flavor, you won’t believe that it takes only five minutes to make – almost as fast as opening a can, but way more healthy and tasty. Perfect for summer!
The reason this lovely soup is so quick to prepare is that it relies primarily on a few high-quality, minimally-processed ingredients: chicken stock/broth, jarred roasted red peppers, and prepared basil pesto. While homemade is always my first choice, I often remind myself that perfect can be the enemy of good. Sometimes, we just have to do the best that our time and budget allows. The key is to read your labels and find the very best versions available to you. Of course, if you have homemade chicken stock, roasted red peppers, and/or basil pesto on hand, by all means, use them!
While there are a lot of choices of canned, boxed, and concentrated stocks on the market, not all of them are what I would refer to as high-quality. Often, they taste terrible: bland, vegetal, or salty. If they do taste “meaty,” it’s usually because of added ingredients such as MSG, yeast extract, and sugar. Some brands try to make up for the lack of meaty flavor by overcompensating with vegetable concentrates, but the result is unpleasant. Of course, salt is a common ingredient to add flavor, but it can’t make up for poor quality.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my favorite boxed stock is Kirkland (Costco) brand’s Organic Chicken Stock. Whatever stock you choose should have these features in common with the Kirkland product:
- Natural ingredients — ones that you recognize — such as chicken, vegetables, spices, and water. An “organic” designation is nice, but not as important as the ingredients themselves.
- Labeled “gluten-free.” Unfortunately, gluten can be hidden in many processed ingredients, so I want the manufacturer’s assurance that it is gluten-free.
- No sugar added, and 0-1 carbs per 8 ounce serving (Kirkland has 0). More than that indicates an excessive amount of vegetables used or perhaps some kind of added sugar.
- Moderate sodium. I don’t need salt-free, but I want to be able to reduce (cook down) the stock and not have it end up too salty. Kirkland brand’s has 440 mg of sodium per 8 ounce serving.
Most prepared roasted red peppers come in jars and the ingredients are usually pretty straight-forward: red bell peppers, water, salt, and citric acid. Some brands add sugar, however, so keep an eye out for that. I often use Mt. Olive brand, which comes in a 12-ounce jar, with a net weight of about 8 ounces.
I absolutely love good basil pesto, and there’s no doubt that homemade is best. Even in summer, when I’m more likely to make it myself, I still often fall back on my second-best option: Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, from the refrigerated section at Costco. It really is the best prepared pesto I’ve found. The ingredient list is pretty impressive compared with most basil pestos, which often contain soybean oil, but don’t often contain the traditional pine nuts or pecorino romano cheese. The downside of the Kirkland product is that it uses sunflower oil in addition to olive oil, perhaps to save money or perhaps to keep the mixture from solidifying too much in the refrigerator. In any event, sunflower oil is better than soybean oil.
You will be amazed how quickly this soup comes together. It’s as simple as measuring out the ingredients into a blender and pureeing until smooth. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Serve it chilled or warm it up in the microwave or on the stove.
I made this recipe recently while traveling in my RV. I don’t have a full-size blender on board, but I managed with my NutriBullet. I placed the red peppers, pesto, and seasonings, along with one cup of stock, in the largest container and blended until smooth. I transferred the mixture to a 6-cup bowl and stirred in the remaining stock and heavy cream. A stick/immersion blender would have worked as well. Because this soup is smooth, it’s drinkable, which lends itself well to taking in an insulated mug for lunch – no spoon required!
This Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Pesto Soup is delicious as is, but you can jazz it up with garnishes for additional texture and flavor, not to mention visual appeal. Some of my favorites include fresh herbs, such as basil or chives, sour cream, parmesan crisps, and spiced pepitas. You could even add some protein, such as seafood or chicken, to make an entree soup. Another way to increase the protein would be to add some whey or egg white protein powder.
Most often, I serve a cup of this soup as part of a meal that could use more vegetables, such as with a simply-prepared protein. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for a salad or cooked veggies, and this soup is a tasty alternative. Of course, it’s also a great accompaniment to an entree salad for a ‘soup-and-salad’ combo.
I love homemade soups all year round, but this is perhaps a perfect choice for summer. Not only is it quick and easy to prepare, it doesn’t require you to heat up your kitchen. Because I adore the flavor combination of roasted red peppers and basil pesto, I nearly always have the ingredients on hand in my refrigerator and pantry, so no special trip to the store is required. That means more time to enjoy summertime activities without sacrificing delicious, nutritious, and guilt-free food.
- 24 ounces / 3 cups chicken stock/broth, high-quality prepared or homemade
- 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained (about 8 ounces net weight)
- 4 ounces / ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 ounces / ¼ cup basil pesto, high-quality prepared or homemade
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon smoked papkrika
- ¼ teaaspoon ground cumin
- Optional Garnishes: fresh basil, sour cream, parmesan crisps, spiced pepitas
- Combine all ingredients (except optional garnishes) in a blender and puree. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or warm with optional garnishes.
- Keeps for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.
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