Roasted Red Pepper, Fennel, and Tomato Soup

1 large fennel bulb
1 red onion
2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 lb tomatoes (we like campari)
4-8 garlic cloves, in their skins
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 fennel seeds
8 oz passata (tomato sauce)
1 liter vegetable stock
1 red chili pepper (or 1/2 tsp chili flakes)
salt and freshly ground pepper
fennel leaves for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the fennel and onions into wedges. Slice a cross into the base of each tomato and squeeze the juice and seeds into a bowl. Strain the juice and set aside.

2. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and add the fennel, onion, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic cloves (still in their skins). Sprinkle over the sugar, olive oil, and scatter the rosemary leaves on top. Roast the vegetables for 1 hour. Cool the vegetables and then peel the blistered skins from the peppers. Peel the garlic and discard the skins.

3. Heat vegetable oil in large soup pot and add fennel seeds, swirling around for a few seconds. Pour in the passata (tomato sauce), vegetable stock, and reserved tomato juice and bring to a boil. Add the roasted vegetables and the chili pepper or flakes to the pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer with the lid half off for about 45 minutes.

4. Using a blender, process the soup until smooth and press through a sieve. Reheat and season, finishing with a sprinkling of fennel leaves for garnish.

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