Tomato and Basil Soup - the Ultimate Comfort Food

One of the great things about tomato and basil soup is that while it is easy to recognize and is typically something we all remember from cold winter days, it is extremely versatile and by the addition (or omission) of certain ingredients can take on entirely different flavors each time you make it.

To get started we'll first look at a very basic tomato and basil soup recipe and then tweak from there.

Basic Tomato and Basil Soup from Scratch

 

Recipe has been adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ingredients:basil and tomato soup

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 cups diced onion (roughly two medium onions)

2 tablespoon minced garlic (approximately 6 cloves)

One healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons of butter (unsalted)

1 can of plum tomatoes and juice (one 28 ounce can)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 cups basil (fresh), packed tightly

1 qt. broth of chicken

3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

Preheat your oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While it heats, toss together your halved tomatoes with the salt, pepper and about a quarter cup of the olive oil. Using the baking sheet, spread the tomatoes evenly, roast them for forty-five minutes

While the tomatoes roast, heat on medium a large stockpot and sauté the garlic and onions in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, with the butter as well as your pinches of pepper flakes until onions begin to appear brown – or about ten minutes. Mix in the basil, thyme, chicken stock and your canned tomatoes.

When your roasted tomatoes are done add them, along with any collected juices in your pans, to your stock pot. Bring the entire pot to boil then to simmer for forty minutes, uncovered. Let the soup cool a bit and then either pulse in a blender or use an immersion blender in the pot to cream everything together.

And here is your base tomato basil soup recipe from which a myriad of combinations can be created!

Modifications to Your Base Tomato Basil Soup

There are many ways that you can dress up your tomato basil soup once you've made it. The question simply is what sort of flavor combinations are you looking for?

You can add some jalapenos if you're looking for a surprising kick, or some cream and cheese to make a rich and decadent creamy variation. You can add some mozzarella balls directly into the soup and leave some tomatoes chunkier to give your soup more texture. Chickpeas can be processed with a little chicken stock to help thicken a soup if you're not looking to add dairy and you can even add a splash of coconut milk and a touch of chili powder if you're looking for a bit of an Indian twist. You can add barley or noodles or chunked vegetables if you're looking for more substance. Or even some sausage or crab meat! And in the summer, chilled tomato basil soup makes a great cool-down addition to a meal.

The real beauty about the simplicity of a tomato basil soup is that the variation possibilities really are endless. And this sort of soup pairs up really well with simple sandwiches, making it a great go-to meal on a busy day. Thick, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches go great with this hearty soup, as would slices of a nice Italian bread with generous slices of fresh mozzarella and then broiled until the cheese is browned, melted and bubbly. Omelets also go well as would a quiche – particularly one with a bit of protein added, perhaps a sausage and tomato quiche.

Tomato basil soup is much more than just a comfort food. Its versatility makes it a kitchen staple.

Buying the Perfect Tomatoes and Basil

In order to buy the perfect tomatoes and basil for your recipe, you need to understand what goes into the ingredients. Tomatoes, for example, come in three different varieties: dry-farmed, locally grown and vine-ripened. Aside from how they are grown, tomatoes come in different variations that are found in your supermarket’s produce section. When buying tomatoes for your tomato basil soup. Even though a tomato may look like it is perfect, that perfect tomato can taste like mush when it arrives home with you. When you are ready to buy tomatoes you will want to look for:

The Look – Weird shapes should not matter with a tomato and cracked skin doesn’t mean a bad tomato. Any soft spots, spots on the skin or leaking juice is a sign of a bad tomato.

The Feel – Tomatoes should feel heavy as you hold them and almost heavier than their weight. They should have a firm feel as you place pressure on them in your palm.

The Smell – Tomatoes that are fresh will have an almost earth-like feel and smell to them. The scent should never be flat, musty or rotten.

The Taste – If you are buying your tomatoes at a farmers market you are allowed to taste them before you buy them. At the supermarket, however, you will not be able to enjoy the taste of a tomato before you purchase it.

When it is time to buy your basil, you will want to look for fresh, vibrantly green leaves that don’t have any spots, bruises or tears in them. Store your basil freshly in the fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel or wash cloth. Do not leave basil in storage bags or the original packaging – this can increase the spoilage or cause mold growth on the leaves.

Storing Your Tomatoes
When you are not ready to use your tomatoes for a tomato basil soup you will want to store them properly. Always treat your tomatoes with gentle care, since most of them are extremely fragile. Never pile up your tomatoes in a bowl or bag, which can bruise the skin. If you are using vine-ripened tomatoes, remove the vine from the stop of the tomatoes gently so that not to expose the flesh inside. Whatever you do, never refrigerate your tomatoes – this can make your tomatoes mushy or even mealy when you cut into them.


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