Tomato-basil soup always earns a top spot on my list of favorites. I never seem to tire of it’s bright hue and mild acidity. And making it fills me with as much joy and warmth as actually eating it does. Also, how many foods can you honestly claim are equally well suited as both a comfort food and a health food. Not many that I can think of.
Right now is the perfect time of year to make tomato-based soups. Because even though the air is starting to turn cool and crisp, there are still plenty of plump, sun-ripened tomatoes up for grabs at the markets. And while you can certainly make this recipe with canned tomatoes, fresh is almost always better in my opinion.
A grilled cheese sandwich may be the perfect pairing for tomato-basil soup. But today, I decided to skip the grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of some cheesy homemade croutons. If you’re not yet making your own croutons at home for soups and salads, I urge you to start immediately. They are so much better than the store bought ones. And wicked crazy easy to make. You’ll never look back.
Tomato-Basil Soup with Parmesan Croutons
- For the Soup
- 2.5 lbs plum tomatoes (but other varieties will work too)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups onions, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- For the Croutons
- 4 cups bread, cut into cubes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- Peel and seed the tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a small “X” over the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to peel off and discard the skins. Cut the peeled tomatoes in half and remove the seeds (gently squeezing them over the trash can or garbage disposal works remarkably well). Chop the peeled and seeded tomatoes into large chunks and set aside.
- In a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, salt, black pepper and tomato paste. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, balsamic vinegar and basil. Note: If you like a thinner soup, you can also add 1 cup of water at this point.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer, covered, for about 1 hour or until the vegetables are very soft. Remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Then puree the soup until very smooth using either an immersion blender, a regular blender or your food processor with the blade attachment. Be careful when transferring hot liquids and work in small batches. Return the soup to the stovetop to re-warm as necessary. Stir in the heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- While the soup is cooking, make the croutons. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients until the bread cubes are well coated. Transfer them to a large rimmed baking sheet, spreading them out into a single layer. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, stir the croutons and then return the baking sheet to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, or until the croutons are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the croutons cool on their baking sheet. Once cooled, the croutons can be transferred to an airtight container.
- To serve, ladle the warm soup into bowls and top with a few croutons and an extra drizzle of heavy cream, if desired.
1. You can substitute two 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (with their juices) for the fresh tomatoes.
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