This recipe came to me from my friend Jennifer, who saw it in a magazine and gave it a try. She was amazed by how well it went over with her teenage boys; I was amazed at how much my family liked it, given that it has no meat in it. It's perfect for a cold night. The aroma alone makes it worth the effort.
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup finely diced onions
1/2 bay leaf (I took a walk on the wild side and used a whole one)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dry oregano)
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (you can substitute 1 tablespoon of dried basil, but I think you'll probably regret it)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups half and half, warmed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a large slow cooker, combine tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, bay leaf, oregano, and basil (if you're using dried herbs, add them an hour before serving instead). Cover adn cook on low for 5 to 7 hours until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.
About an hour before serving, prepare a roux: Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour; stir constantly with a whisk for 5 to 7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup of hot soup from the slow cooker. Add another 3 cups of soup and stir until smooth.
Add the soup and flour mixture back into the slow cooker. Stir and add parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for another hour until ready to serve.
This recipe has an amazing combination of flavors. Some of the kids were a little freaked out by the chunks of vegetables, though. I tried an experiment with the leftovers that made the soup more elegant: I pureed everything in the blender until it was smooth and creamy. It made for a lovely soup: