Sure, canned tomato soup is easy, but is it really delicious?

Sure, canned tomato soup is easy, but is it really delicious?

Here is a soup recipe that starts with roasted garlic -- three heads of it. Don't be alarmed, though. Garlic becomes mellow and sweet when roasted. It's stirred into a mixture of tomatoes, leeks and herbs and pureed until smooth.

The result is far superior to canned varieties of tomato soup. Make it ahead and pack it in a thermos for lunch (for kids and parents). Or enjoy it with a grilled cheese sandwich made with artisan bread and aged cheddar.

Tomato and roasted garlic soup
Makes 4 to 6 servings

This recipe is from Betty Rosbottom, whose column has been running in the Dispatch Food section for more than 25 years.

3 medium heads garlic 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts only) 2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary 2 teaspoons dried thyme kosher salt 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes 3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, drained 4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth gorgonzola, asiago or parmesan cheese, preferably at room temperature Arrange an oven rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the head of garlic in a medium baking dish. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of oil. Toss to coat well. Roast until the garlic cloves are very tender when pierced with a knife, about 50 minutes. Cool.

Using a serrated knife, halve the head horizontally. Use a spoon or squeeze the garlic cloves, which will be soft like butter, into a small bowl. Add the oil from the roasting pan (discard any papery flakes from the garlic), and mash the mixture with a fork.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add rosemary, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper flakes.

Stir a minute, then add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer until leeks and tomatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir the mashed garlic into the soup. Puree the soup in a food processor or blender, or use an immersion blender. Season to taste with salt and more red pepper flakes if needed. (The soup can be prepared a day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.) Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with cheese.

Robin Davis is food editor of The Columbus Dispatch. She oversees the Food section, published each Wednesday, which features recipes, question-and-answer columns and reviews of cookbooks, wines and local eateries.