You'll find all the flavors of a good marinara sauce in this substantial soup, along with the smoky richness of roasted eggplant. As an added bonus, the leftovers can become the base for baked pasta the next day.
Technique tip: To cut eggplant and other round vegetables, first cut them in half lengthwise, then place each half flat side down on the board before you cut it. The vegetable will be more stable and easier to cut.
Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a medium (10- to 11-inch) pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Add the eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Add a little more olive oil if the eggplant is sticking.2.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pot, add the onions and fennel, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring often. Add the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, fennel seeds, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Pour the can of whole tomatoes, including the liquid, into a food processor and pulse until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes and the liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasonings.3.
Serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (or pack in containers and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 4 months).