If you’re like me, tomato soup is synonymous with not only “comfort food,” but it is synonymous with childhood. And yes, for many of us in North America, it is also synonymous with Campbell’s condensed tomato soup.
Hands up — please be honest now — hands up who not only grew up with memories of Campbell’s tomato soup but grew up with it paired with grilled cheese sandwiches? Yes, tomato soup and Kraft Dinner (or a grown-up equivalent) remain two of my guilty pleasures that I still make to do this day when I’m in a rush and seeking comfort. But guilty pleasures doesn’t mean we can’t evolve these childhood staples into adult pleasures ….
I was happy to reinvent the notion of macaroni and cheese (with 6-cheeses) earlier this year so when the profundity of tomatoes overtook both window sill and freezer, I turned my attention this fall to a reinvention of that childhood classic, tomato soup which was so often served with Christie “Premium Plus” saltine crackers. For a childhood all my own, I have to imagine that these foods mirrors many of yours ….
My point? To take fresh tomatoes and turn them into something more than a tomato sauce and into rich tomato soup with the same thickness we remembered as a child. And instead of flavourless saltines that turned to much within seconds of touching the soup, I sought and crispy adult-only treat: Parmesan-croutons.
While the roasting takes a few extra minutes than plopping out a suction-grabbing blop of processed goo, this will actually come together much faster than you expect since the steps overlap and can be done at the same time.
Best of all, prepare this in advance and you have either a crowd-pleasing tomato soup for dinner party or something you can squirrel away in your freezer for those dark days winter when you dream of being a kid making snowmen again.
Recipe Note about Parmesan Rinds: On the end of every whole piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano is a tough ‘skin’ or rind which fill confound even the sharpest grater. I save these diligently in my freezer from every block of cheese and they find their way into many a soup providing a deep and rich flavour without the “gooeyness” of cheese.Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
Servings: 8-10 as a starter (6-8 as lunch)
Roasted Tomato Soup with Parmesan-Thyme Croutons
- 5.5lbs Fresh Tomatoes (blanched & peeled)
→ Optionally substitue 2x 20 oz cans of canned Italian tomatoes
- 3cloves Garlic
- 2small Leeks (roasted)
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 1medium Onion, diced
- 3medium Carrots (roasted)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1sprig Thyme (fresh)
- 1/2 cup Basil Leaves (fresh) chiffonade
→ keep the stems separately
- 2 cups Chicken Stock
→ Substitute vegetable stock if keeping it vegetarian
- 2 Parmesan Rinds
- 1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Whipping (Heavy) Cream
- 1.5 teaspoon Kosher Sea Salt
- Fresh Chives (garnish)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (garnish)
- 1 large French Baguette, trimmed of crust and cubed
- 1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Thyme (fresh) chiffonade
- 1 clove Garlicfinely minced
- 1/2 teaspooon Kosher Sea Salt(to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper(to taste)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheesefreshly grated
- Preheat barbeque to 400ºF. ♦ Preheat oven to 425ºF. ♦ Put a large pot of water on to boil.
- Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, leaving the stems intact, and gently — but thoroughly — wash them to remove any dirt and sand.
- Lightly oil them along with the carrots and place them on the barbecue and grill them for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and let cool. → Carrots will probably grill another 3 minutes/side longer as grill marks appear.
- While the leeks are grilling, prepare the tomatoes by washing them and cutting a ‘cross’ in the base of each. When the pot of water has come to a boil, place the tomatoes in the water.
Blanch the tomatoes until the skins start to break and they pull back from the crosses you cut. Remove from water and immerse in cold water to arrest the cooking.
- Prepare two large baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Once tomatoes have cooled, remove the cores and remove the skins while gently squeezing their juice into a bowl. Reserve juice and set aside.
→ Optionally: If using pre-canned tomatoes, follow the same steps from here, removing (and saving) the juice and laying them flat out to fill two baking sheets.
If Roma (aka Italian or plum) tomatoes, the tomatoes will likely squish out relatively flat because they are lower in water content. If regular tomatoes, you may need to slice them in half. Either way, once lightly squeezed, lay them out on the baking sheets …
… and bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly ‘dried’ and just beginning to signs of caramelization. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot and add the diced onion. Saute for about 10 minutes until barely golden.
- Cube the grilled carrot. Thinly slice the leeks.
- Add the carrots, leeks, and minced garlic to the onions and cook until lightly softened (about 10 minutes).
- Increase heat to medium-high and deglaze the pan with the reserved tomato juice and stock.
Add the roasted tomatoes.
Add the seasonings now: basil stems, Parmesan rinds, sprig of thyme, and bay leaves. Simmer until vegetables are very tender: about 15-20 minutes.
Remove rinds, bay leaves, and basil stems
Add fresh basil ….
Now purée in a blender or with high-powered immersion blender until smooth.
Return to pot and add whipping cream and re-add the Parmesan rinds.
Finish with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let flavours fully marinate.
- Meanwhile, prepare the croutons by turning over to 400ºF. Using a serrated bread knife, cut the crust from the loaf and cube the loaf into 1-inch cubes.
Toss the bread with olive oil, thyme, and garlic.
Lay the croutons out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes …
Toss them on the sheet and bake for 10 minutes longer until lightly crispy.
Sprinkle them with grated Parmesan and bake another minute or two until the cheese has melted and ‘crisped.’ Remove and let cool.
- Ladle out the tomato soup into bowls and garnish with fresh cream and/or olive oil and a handful of Parmesan croutons.
Wine Pairing: While not exactly a childhood pairing, this simple but rich soup whose flavours have deepened with the roasting of the vegetables calls for a wine that provides a complementary contrast. A new world Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand would pair well or a slightly sweet Canadian Riesling like Fielding’s would be perfect and would contrast nicely with the soup and bring out the flavours of the croutons.