Growing up a greenhouse, we always had piles of tomatoes lying around. If my mother wasn’t growing them in the back garden, we were buying them by the bucketful from the local grocer or farmers’ market. As a kid, I never liked tomato soup, not even with grilled cheese sandwiches(!) but as an adult I can’t get enough, especially if it’s homemade. This recipe is my classic go-to when I've bought more tomatoes than the bruschetta calls for. It can be a bit labor intensive but the result is mindblowingly worth it. It’s hearty enough to eat with stodgy bread for dinner, or light enough to pair with a salad for lunch. The recipe is quite flexible, so you can tweak it to your personal taste, but I must stress: use real butter and real cream! If you’ve saved for one caloric splurge this week, let this be it. Trust me.
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
5 - 6 medium tomatoes*
4 cups tomato juice
15 fresh basil leaves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced (optional)**
* If you’re feeling very ambitious you can peel as well as seed the tomatoes for a smoother consistency in the soup. I usually don’t bother peeling the tomatoes, but always half them and scoop out the seeds.
** I always add sautéed onion and garlic to this soup because it adds depth to the flavors. It also adds texture, which some tomato soup traditionalists might seriously object to. Omit the onions and garlic and the soup will be much smoother.
Sauté the chopped onions and garlic in a knob of butter (right in the soup pot) over medium heat. When the onions are transparent and beginning to turn golden, add the tomatoes, tomato juice, and a few shakes of salt & pepper (to taste). Cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Note: the longer the soup simmers, the richer and sweeter the flavor will be.
Add the fresh basil leaves and puree with an immersion hand blender until smooth (alternatively, you can blend in batches in a counter-top blender, but an immersion blender is much easier).
Returning the pot to medium heat. Add the heavy cream and (real!) butter. Stir until the butter is completely melted, but be careful not to boil.