I love soup. I love to make soup and I love to eat soup. I love that you can spend less than an hour in the kitchen preparing something that you can make several meals out of. I love that soup is both healthy (with the exception of a few) and filling at the same time. I love that soup makes that most out of seasonal ingredients--hearty butternut squash in October and refreshing gazpacho in July. And, I love how comforting a hot bowl of soup is--in my opinion it is the ultimate comfort food.
Growing up in New Jersey, I was able to experience four distinct seasons with piles of brightly colored leaves in the fall and snow in the winter. On snowy days, I used to love to come inside, after a busy morning of sledding and snow angels, to a lunch of Campbell's Tomato Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I loved to dip the corner of my sandwich into the soup--it was a fantastic flavor combination. Nowadays, although I live in the Southwest where winter lasts for about 3 days and, even if it does snow, you would need to gather all of the snow in the city just to make one snowball, I still like to have my tomato soup and grilled cheese. This is my updated, made-from-scratch version, which uses roasted tomatoes and fresh basil. I have updated the grilled cheese sandwich as well (see recipe suggestions), but the flavor combination is still there and it is just as comforting as it was when I was little.
This would be a great recipe to make ahead for easy dinners over the busy holiday season when you don't have time to cook and you want something light yet satisfying. My previously posted Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe would be another good one to have on hand. Here are my suggestions for this recipe:
- For an updated version of the grilled cheese sandwich, I like to use whole grain bread, good sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced prosciutto (substitute ham or turkey if you can't find it), and whole grain dijon mustard. Butter both slices of bread on the outside and then spread the dijon on the inside of one slice. Layer the prosciutto and cheese on the mustard and them top with the other slice of bread. Grill on a grill pan or a skillet, weighted down (I used my tea kettle to weight it down, but another skillet or heavy plate would work too). Flip the sandwich over after one side is deep golden brown.
- I like to use a mixture of roma (also called plum) tomatoes and small grape tomatoes for this recipe because I think that this combination produces the best flavor. The grape tomatoes do not need to be halved prior to roasting, as they are small enough. The photo below is what the tomatoes should look like when they are ready to come out of the oven.
- You may adjust the amount of red pepper flakes depending on the amount of heat that you like in your recipes, but adjust it gradually. A little bit goes a long ways.
- For easier clean up, line the baking sheet with foil or parchment prior to roasting the tomatoes.
- Fresh basil is important for this recipe, so this is a case in which I do not recommend substituting a dried herb.
- This soup freezes well for up to one month and it can be refrigerated for one week.
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes with juices
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 quart chicken stock or water
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
In a large stockpot, on medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pulse with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until you reach your desired level of consistency. Season with additional salt and pepper and serve hot or cold with a grilled cheese sandwich.