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Creamy Tomato Stoup and Italian Patty Melts



  • 4 cups whole milk

  • 3 cans diced tomatoes (14 ounces), drained

  • 2 rounded tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1/2 cup Watercress and Hazelnut Pesto (recipe below) or store-bought prepared basil pesto, available on dairy aisle

Watercress and Hazelnut Pesto:

  • 12 ounces watercress, stems removed

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

  • 2 cloves cracked garlic

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling, plus 1 tablespoon

  • 4 sweet Italian sausage patties (1/4 pound each), available in packaged meat case at the grocery store

  • 1 cubanelle pepper (long, sweet, Italian light green pepper), seeded and sliced

  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced

  • Salt and pepper

  • 8 slices Italian bread or white bread

  • 8 slices deli-sliced provolone cheese


Heat the milk over moderate heat in a medium pot. Put tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, salt and pepper, sugar, flour, butter and celery into a food processor and grind until smooth. Pour mixture into milk and raise heat to bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. While soup cooks, make pesto and sammies. Fill the food processor with watercress, loosely packed. Add hazelnuts, half of the EVOO (eyeball it) and garlic cloves to the watercress in the food processor. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to the processor bowl, set lid in place and pulse grind the mixture into a thick paste. Add any remaining watercress to the processor and grind into the paste by pulsing the processor again. Transfer watercress paste to a bowl. Stir in the remaining EVOO and the cheese. Taste pesto sauce and adjust seasonings. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with EVOO, add the patties and cook 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the griddle and add another tablespoon of EVOO and the peppers and onions. Season the peppers and onions with salt and pepper and cook until just tender, 5 minutes. Remove them from the griddle. Wipe the griddle clean and reduce heat to medium-low. Assemble the sandwiches: place four slices of bread down, then top each piece of bread with a quarter of the peppers and onion, a slice of cheese, a cooked sausage patty and another slice of cheese. Then place remaining slices of bread on top. Add butter to griddle and cook sammy melts 2-3 minutes on each side until golden and cheese is melted. Press sammies with spatula  as they cook or set another heavy skillet on sammies to weigh them down. Pour soup into shallow bowls and add a couple of rounded spoonfuls of pesto to each dish and stir it into the soup. Cut the patty melts corner to corner and dip in the soup as you eat.