Tonight was a night where I was craving something healthy and comforting. Most of the time this feels like a complete contradiction when it comes to cooking. More butter means more flavor, more more more. I remember when I was younger, my Grandpa was on a diet over the holidays and my Grandma decided to support him in his effort to be healthy by baking sugar-free, fat-free christmas cookies. Sugar cookies to be precise. I have no clue how she did it and it was a valiant, sweet effort, but boy were they something. She had us try them and after taking one bite and looking at her with apparent disappointment on our faces, she tried one too. “Oh, throw them away!”
Sometimes you can’t go without butter or sugar; they are ingredients that truly do make things so much tastier.
Tonight was a perfect compromise though, and frankly this has become one of our go-to favorite recipes. Whenever it is cold out, whenever I want something comforting, or whenever I just really have a hankering for tomato soup, this is the recipe.
Bless you Spoon Fork Bacon.
While the original recipe is truly delicious, I have found a few ways to cut corners that make pulling this soup together in about an hour instead of an hour and a half or two much more plausible. This soup is truly a delight – whether you make it quickly or let the tomatoes roast a bit longer and the soup simmer for a bit more time, you will be delighted. I guarantee it.
1 ½ lbs Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (or 2 1/2 C. if you like your soup less thick)
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup heavy cream (or whole milk depending on how creamy you like your soup)
Preheat your oven to 375
Slice your roma tomatoes lengthwise, place on a cookie sheet cut side up, drizzle (lovingly) with olive oil, sprinkle generously but to taste with salt and pepper. If you like a little kick, I add red pepper flakes here, too.
Place in the oven and roast for about 1 hour. I have upped the temperature on my oven to about 400 and cooked them for 4o minutes instead, too with equally good results.
While the tomatoes are roasting, in a large pot melt the butter over medium-high, then add onions and saute for 5 minutes or until slightly translucent and fragrant. Then add the thyme and garlic and saute for 5 additional minutes. Thyme is a very resilient herb, one with a thick stem that stands up to a little manhandling. So, when you are attempting to remove the leaves from the stem (because you don’t want to include the woody part) run your fingers from the top of the branch to the bottom – this should pull most of the leaves off of the stem with minimal effort. Season with salt and pepper.
Once you have sautéed your veggies and herbs, add the crushed tomatoes, basils, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes
*Quick interjection – there are several opportunities for you to season your soup with salt and pepper. Obviously seasoning with both is optional and to taste. However, a word of direction, if you want a creamy, mildly-sweet tomato soup, use less salt. If you favor a more traditional, savory tomato soup, season at every opportunity with a generous pinch of good sea salt. I love salt, so I prefer the latter. However, we have made it both ways; creamy (heavy cream and less salt) and sweeter, or less creamy (more broth, whole milk instead of heavy cream, and more salt) and it is always a hit.
After the tomatoes are all roasted and caramelized-looking, add the tomatoes and the chicken broth. If you like your soup creamy add just what is listed in the directions. If you like your soup, well, soupy, add about 1/2 C. extra broth. I bet you know what’s next… salt and pepper!
Now…when I’m in a hurry I tend to skip this next step, but if you have the extra 30 minutes to wait I would recommend you let this delightful tomato-laden treat spend a little more time melding its flavors and simmer the soup covered for 1/2 hour.
However, if you don’t have time to spare – NEVER FEAR!
I use an immersion blender for this next step (less dishes!), but you will want to blend your soup until it is smooth. Either pour into a blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender and make everything nice and smooth. Next, stir in the cream (or whole milk) until fully incorporated, simmer the soup for about 3 more minutes to make sure it is warm.
Ladle into bowls and eat up! (Optional: top with goat cheese and basil)
OR you could add a sandwich: If you are really in the mood for something comforting, pair this with a yummy grilled cheese.
We put a soft farmer’s cheese and a soft white cheddar on ours, some extra thyme, and peppadew peppers sliced up.
Butter the outsides of your bread, place the filling in the middle and toast in a pan on the stove over medium-low heat. This will make sure your sandwiches are golden brown, not burned, and that the center is nice and gooey.
If this isn’t like a warm hug, I don’t know what is… Enjoy!