I am a big fan of thick and hearty tomato soups. The problem is - most of them are full of heavy cream. Why turn wonderful heart healthy tomatoes into something so horrible for you? Not only that - but being slightly lactose intolerant my stomach cannot handle heavy cream at all. This soup is the perfect answer - ripe tomatoes and lots of garlic roasted with rich balsamic vinegar then simply simmered with lots of basil and sauteed onions. Blend it all up and its a rich and delicious soup that I find myself craving all the time. Let the croutons sit at the bottom of your bowl and soak up all tomatoey goodness and they make a delicious addition.
This soup is great for late summer when the markets are full of cheap, fresh tomatoes and the weather is starting to remind us that fall is coming quickly.
Just a few notes about the recipe: start with less water than it calls for to prevent from watering down your soup. Some tomatoes are more watery than others and I find I need different amounts of liquid every time I make this. I use exactly half the amount of Olive oil that he recommends (or even less - it definitely doesn't need that much!), and always make sure to use a really good rich balsamic - it makes a world of difference in the flavor of the soup. I sometimes add in a few other herbs with the basil (like rosemary and thyme) with pleasing results. When I make the croutons, I dip them in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of just oil. And last but not least - the bit about using a non-reactive baking sheet is really important. Try to avoid using an aluminum pan when roasting the tomatoes as it can really add a metallic taste to the soup.
Roasted Tomato Soup
from Micheal Chiarello
For the soup:
- 12 large (about 4 pounds) tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 12 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped yellow onions
- 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, plus few leaves torn for garnish
- 2 cups cold water
For the croutons:
- 1 loaf country-style bread
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 C - my oven doesn't even go this hot! So I have to let them cook a bit longer).
Prepare the tomatoes. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the oil (I just drizzle in to taste - not nearly that whole amount), the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper, to taste. Spread the tomatoes out on a non-reactive baking sheet (important or your tomatoes will taste like aluminum). Roast the tomatoes in the oven until very dark in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool a bit.
Prepare the bruschetta. Cut the bread crosswise into slices about 1-inch thick (you will need 8 slices). Lightly brush the slices on both sides with oil and season with salt. Place the slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the bruschetta are golden brown and just beginning to crisp, about 6 minutes.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining 1/4 cup oil, the onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are very soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 2 cups basil leaves and saute with the onions for about 1 minute.
Add the roasted tomatoes and water to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Puree the tomato mixture in a blender. Start the motor at a slow speed and increase gradually. Alternatively you can use an immersion blender right in the pot. The mixture should be very smooth. You should have about 8 cups. You can prepare the soup to this point and refrigerate it. When ready to serve, pour the soup into a medium saucepan and bring it to a slow simmer over medium heat.
Serve the soup. Garnish with herbs if you like and serve with the croutons.