There was a time when I turned my nose up at tomato soup. To me it was no more than watered down tomato sauce disguised as soup–not the least bit appealing. I felt the same about tomato juice. V8? I’ll pass. I don’t recall when the turning point was, when I decided that a good bowl of tomato soup deserved not only my attention but also my appreciation. These days my soup hall of fame proudly includes this erstwhile non-favorite.
Let me preface by saying that I am no authority on tomato soup. I realize that there are several ways to prepare it. I have seen recipes that use canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, some use celery and/or carrots, the methods seem endless. I really should experiment more but I have been stuck (in a good way) using the same preparation for years. It is a simple recipe and I am certain an online recipe guided me during my first effort but my motivation to give tomato soup a chance was centered on another idea that, at the time, I had only recently embraced: Roasted tomatoes.
After learning that roasting store-bought Roma tomatoes* coaxes the sweetness out of these otherwise bland, supermarket perennials, I couldn’t find enough uses for them. Using them in soup was a natural next step since by winter, when soup cravings are at their peak, sweet homegrown tomatoes are long gone, having eloped with summer. Of course I exaggerate–farmers markets and better supermarkets will always have good tomatoes–but this is a good, cost-effective option when neither is accessible. A little time in the oven gives the Roma variety a sweet makeover, they go from bland to brimming with flavor.
This translates well in the soup. All at once you have the taste of fresh tomatoes, neither too sweet nor too acidic. And with the help of a few other ingredients you have comfort in a bowl. It is now a wintertime staple and of course a simple grilled cheese sandwich is a mandatory accompaniment.
But I will still pass on the V8.**
* Obviously, the tomatoes I used in my pictures are not Romas but I used them all for the soup and I had to substitute another variety.
** No offense to the V8 company and I also realize that their juice contains other vegetables than simply tomatoes. But to me, the prominent flavor is tomato–I just still haven’t acquired the taste.
Roasted Tomato Soup
- 2 1/2 pounds Roma Tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise and cored
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cups prepared stock (vegetable or chicken; I use the latter)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 /4 cup fat-free half and half (you can use regular cream but I prefer this since it doesn’t overpower the tomato flavor)
- olive oil for roasting and for sautéing
- salt and pepper, to taste
- balsamic vinegar, just a couple of teaspoons or so (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes in just enough olive oil to coat, along with a bit of salt and pepper. You can add a tiny amount of balsamic vinegar to aid in the caramelization process but it is optional. If I’m not using the tomatoes for soup, I always add a bit more. Lay on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are caramelized.
- In a medium-sized soup pot, sauté the onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat. You will see some caramelization at this point.
- Add the tomatoes, bay leaf (leave in only until fragrant; a few minutes), butter, and the chicken stock.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2o minutes until the liquid has reduced by about 1/3.
- Add the chopped basil and purée with an immersion blender. Alternatively, you can transfer the mixture in batches and purée in a blender or food processor.
- Add half and half, stir and serve.