Ask someone about their favorite rainy-day meal and chances are they’ll share with you childhood memories of eating tomato soup and grilled cheese on a chilly, drizzling Saturday afternoon. It’s a classic combination in our culture, though it’s one that I didn’t personally try until I got to college.
My parents weren’t trying to deprive me; the truth of the matter is that if they’d tried to serve me tomato soup during my fledgling years, I would have looked at them with absolute horror. I spent the bulk of my first two decades desperately trying to avoid tomatoes in their many forms. They were particularly egregious when raw, but I wasn’t interested in large amounts of any tomato-based substance. Tomato soup would have immediately reduced me to tears.
By the time I was 18, however, and away at school, I was beginning to open up a little to tomatoes. I don’t know if my palate had changed or if I was generally more mature in my approach to food, but slowly I started to understand the tomato’s many virtues.
Now I’m all in when it comes to tomatoes, and I particularly love a good bowl of tomato soup. In my book, there’s no tomato soup recipe better than Ina Garten’s Roasted Tomato Basil Soup. It’s been my go-to version since I first made it more than eight years ago. It starts by instructing you to roast three pounds of plum tomatoes and finishes with four cups of fresh basil leaves. It is deeply flavorful, and while not as silky smooth as the canned kind, still goes incredibly well with a grilled cheese.
From start to finish, this soup takes about two hours to make, which means that it’s best done on a Saturday afternoon. It keeps well, however, so I like to cook up a big batch when I have the time and then portion it out for the freezer. Sounds like a project for The Weekender to me!
Before you start roasting your tomatoes, here are a few things you should know:
– Ina instructs you to roast your tomatoes in 1/4 cup olive oil. It may sounds like a lot but in reality, this is a fairly lean soup. The oil makes for greater satiation, so I like to use the full amount.
– If you don’t want to mess with dirtying a food mill, pull the skins off the roasted tomatoes once they’ve cooled enough to not burn your fingertips. Then use an immersion blender to puree the soup (it handles everything well except for tomato and apple skins). The texture will be nearly identical and you’ll have avoided pushing all the soup through a metal screen.
– I seriously recommend doubling the recipe and freezing some of this soup for a later date. Having small containers of this soup in the freezer feels like a gift on a cold day.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.