Tomato season is almost upon us. We must prepare…and this cream of tomato soup is one way to do it.
The first time I ate it was at my dear friend Pina’s house and I was completely smitten by it. Our two families were eating together and Pina served us delicious bowls of this chunky tomato soup with little rounded pasta shapes as a starter course. I nervously looked over at my little one Kira, who was going through her “I will not eat anything I’m not in the mood for” phase to see if I needed to step in and prevent some sort of garden-variety meltdown.
Instead, I noticed that she had not just started eating it already, but that she devouring it with great zeal. So I looked down at my own bowl and put my spoon to work right away. Hmmmm. It was so flavorful and savory, and was simultaneously light. This soup clearly celebrates the tomato in all of its glory by showcasing its slightly tangy, fruity quality. It tasted so rich that I couldn’t believe it didn’t contain a lick of heavy cream or half-n-half. After I finished my bowl I felt like grabbing everyone else’s and finishing theirs, but thankfully I remembered I had SOME dignity.
I thought about that soup for many moons before I actually battled some of my attention deficit disorder and remembered to ask Pina for the recipe. I finally got it this past holiday season, when my family and I spent several days at her house around New Years. Here we are this past January…man I miss you girl, all the way up in New Jersey and all!!!!
I was so excited when I finally had the recipe in hand! I know…I need to get out more.
So with summer right around the corner, I thought I’d share this soup recipe with you.
I used fresh plum tomatoes for this soup, though you are, of course, welcome to use canned. I’ve tried it both ways and found the one made with fresh tomatoes tasted just a little more complex and richer then the one made with canned tomatoes. But I also let those plum tomatoes sit out on my kitchen counter in a bowl for almost a week and waited to make the soup until they were completely crimson red and felt slightly soft to the touch. They were at the peak of their natural sweetness and flavor and that definitely shone through. It’s kinda of a winning formula, I think, and I will stick with it.
I know using fresh tomatoes requires the additional step of boiling them in water for a minute and removing the peel. But while it is extra effort, it can be done rather quickly and I think the difference in flavor makes doing so worth it.
By the way, if you’re as big a fan of cream of tomato soup as I am, you may want to check out these other versions of this gem of a soup. Saveur offers up a really decadent version, complete with bacon and heavy cream, while Epicurious has a minimalist version that you could probably whip up pretty quickly. The version offered by The Kitchn falls somewhere in between the two.
making cream of tomato soup
Bring a large, heavy pot filled with water to a boil (if you’re using fresh tomatoes). Add 3 lbs. of fully mature plum tomatoes and allow them to cook for a minute. Remove them immediately and allow them to cool enough for you to handle them. Then, remove the skin of each tomato.
Cut each tomato in half and remove the seeds with your fingers. Set aside.
In the same pot, heat 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter over a medium-low flame. Add 1 large onion, 4 carrots, and 6 celery stalks, all roughly chopped, with a good pinch of salt and sauté for 20 minutes, stirring often.
It may seem like a lot of cooking, but don’t be tempted to turn up the flame to make this process go faster. This step slowly brings out the natural sweetness of the onion, celery and carrot, and rushing it can make them taste bitter instead. You want the veggies to look like this before you go on to the next step:
Add the fresh tomatoes halves or 350 grams of pureed tomatoes (I used Pomi’), 3 cups of chicken (preferably) or vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, 2 tablespoons of sugar and alittle more salt.
Stir well and increase the heat to medium high to bring it to a boil. Once that happens, lower the flame to low and allow to gently cook, with peaceful bubbling in the pot, for 1 to 2 hours. I’ve found that the longer I cook it, the tastier the soup is.
Puree the mixture with an immersion blender.
Add 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix well into mixture with a spoon or ladle. Ladle out the soup into bowls and top with a fresh basil leaf or two per bowl, either whole or gently ripped. Makes 8 servings.