Saturday, April 2, 2016

Easy Tomato Soup

I may be a graduate of the I Can't Be Bothered School of Cooking but that doesn't mean I'm content to open a can when I want some soup. We don't have packaged soups around here; we have frozen, homemade soups in a pinch and I usually can scavenge ingredients for a fresh, simple soup even in our tiny kitchen with its minimal stock of fresh produce. Homemade soup is well worth any effort it takes. And here at Casa APB it takes very little.

I was in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup the other day, so I made some. As usual, I did not bother to consult a recipe; I improvised. Tomato soup can be complex — if you use fresh tomatoes and make broth from scratch — or simple. I went with simple.

Please note that I often don't list specific amounts, not because I am lazy (and I am) but because it's up to you.  I grew up eating my grandmother's wonderful Italian food and she never used a written recipe unless she was baking a cake. Cooking is common-sense work; a lot depends on your own tastes and preferences and the specific qualities of your ingredients. Cooking also requires you to use your head all the time; it's excellent mental exercise. To me, recipes are more like suggestions than laws to be rigorously obeyed. (That's definitely less true when it comes to baking.)

So: think, taste as you go, and react accordingly. 

This soup is a brilliant color and flavor to match.

Tomato Basil Soup

Makes about 4 servings, depending on how greedy you are.

1 yellow onion (baseball sized)
Butter or olive oil
1 quart of chicken broth (I use Trader Joe's organic; no need to be fancy)
Better than Bouillon, chicken flavor (optional)
26-ounce carton of Pomi finely chopped tomatoes (or your own canned, chopped tomatoes)
1 small can of tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of fresh basil, chopped finely

Chop the onion into very small pieces while you warm some butter or olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. 

Asides: The trick to not crying while chopping onions is a very sharp knife. Use your sharpening steel to smooth your blade. If someone in your house is watching his/her weight, use one or two tablespoons of butter or oil to make him/her feel better. Otherwise use more. Use Pomi tomatoes in a carton or similar. Canned tomatoes taste canned, but somehow canned tomato paste doesn't matter as much.

When the butter is melted and ready, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until they're soft. Add the broth and cook uncovered until it's bubbling. I add about a teaspoonful of Better than Bouillon at this point to enrich it. 

Add the tomatoes and freak out over how thin and watery your soup looks. (It will look like Campbell's vegetable-alphabet soup: ugh.) Add the tomato paste and fret some more. Reduce the heat so the soup is simmering. Distract yourself by chopping the basil. Take your leaves and stack them, then roll them tightly and chop the little roll into strips (aka chiffonade). Then chop it some more. Be as fussy or sloppy as you want about this; cooking is also supposed to be fun.

Look! Your bubbling soup is thickening and looking better and better. Add the basil (saving some for a garnish if you want to be fancy). Keep simmering the soup until it's thick enough to suit you; it won't take long. When you like the consistency, remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Your soup will have rich, saturated tomato color and flavor and you will never tolerate Campbell's again. Using the "finely chopped" Pomi tomatoes and doing a good job with your onion gives it a slightly chunky,  satisfying consistency, I find, but you could purée it with an immersion blender if you want a silkier soup.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, buttery and brown.


  1. Sounds delicious! I may have to make some since it's SNOWING here this morning! By the way, another way to avoid crying while slicing onions is to refrigerate them. A cold onion does not cause crying, I have found.

  2. I adore the fact that you added fretting to the recipe.. because who doesn't do that already :)


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