Easy Homemade Tomato Basil Soup
If Jason could eat grilled cheese sandwiches every day of his life, I think he might. This is not a criticism, mind you, just a statement of fact.
As someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, this is problematic. My natural instinct is to fuss it up and fancify the sandwich, to treat it like an Iron Chef challenge. Premium fresh cheeses, sauteed onions, a gourmet spread, maybe the addition of fruit slices or bacon. Grilled cheese is a blank canvas! Time after time I try to concoct the perfect sandwich upgrade, presented with flourish and ceremony.
Jason always accepts these offerings without complaint, but after years of marriage, I’ve come to read the signals: what he really wants is just two slices of classic american cheese on buttered, toasted bread.
This fills me with despair. Since I like to cook as a gift and a way to show people I care, putting that little effort into a favorite meal kind of feels like I’m handing out a subtle, insinuated, Downton Abbey-style insult. But it’s what he wants, so I try to funnel the effort into something he doesn’t mind me tinkering with – and what better accompaniment to grilled cheese than classic tomato soup?
It’s easy enough to pop the top on a can of Campbell’s, but I promise this version is ALMOST as easy, and you can control the ingredients and know exactly what is going into your meal. It’s just enough effort to make it feel like a little gift. You can stock a can or two of the tomatoes in the pantry for those nights when you need a quick fall-back meal, and with just a few minutes and spin with the immersion blender, you’ve got a steamy, warm bowl of liquid comfort.
You may be tempted to just buy a can of sauce or pureed tomatoes and skip the blending step, but don’t – it’s important to get either diced or whole tomatoes so the soup will have a slightly thick, velvety texture after blending. If you like a brighter, fresher tomato flavor, use Cento San Marzanos – you can practically taste the summer sunshine in them. If you prefer a deeper, more roasted flavor (with pleasant flecks of burnished tomato), go with a fire-roasted brand.
I usually have a carton of cream in my fridge at all times (in case of whipped cream emergencies), but half an half would work in a pinch. Don’t try to cut calories by skimping on the dairy – with just a handful of ingredients, each one is important. The luscious fat in the cream gives the soup a pleasant viscosity and mouthfeel, and is critical to balancing the sharp acidity of the tomatoes.
Seriously, cream makes everything in life so much better.
I’ve made this soup using just these ingredients and seasoning with salt, sugar and pepper, and it is perfectly pleasing – but to really put this simple dish over the top, add a handful of torn basil before blending. Herbaceous and peppery, fresh basil gives the soup a subtle perfume that makes it just a touch more elegant.
Satisfied that I’ve made a wholesome and delicious side dish, I can make peace with preparing grilled cheese just the way Jason likes it – even if all that requires is unwrapping a few slices of american cheese. Pour this soup into a bowl fit for sandwich-dunking, add some stretchy pants, an empty schedule and a few recorded television shows, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect lazy afternoon or evening.
P.S. – I added a slice of provolone into Jason’s grilled cheese this time, because I clearly cannot stop myself.
- 1 28 oz can premium tomatoes (My favorites are Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes or Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Whole Tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn (around 5-8 leaves)
- pinch red pepper flakes*
- 1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 3 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 Tbsp butter
- Immersion blender, blender, food processor or potato masher
- Pour tomatoes and sauce/juices from can into a saucepan. Crush tomatoes with a fork or potato masher.
- Season with salt, sugar and red pepper flakes. Add basil and simmer for 15 mins.
- Turn off heat, then blend with immersion blender until smooth.*
- Add cream and butter. Blend with immersion blender until incorporated.
- Top with fresh cracked pepper and serve with grilled cheese or fresh bread.
- *You will only just barely notice the heat, the addition just makes the flavor a bit more complex!
- **You can also use a potato masher for this, but the tomato chunks will be more pronounced and the broth a bit thinner. A blender or food processor will also work.