Marcella Hazan (the queen of authentic Italian cooking) uses butter in her tomato sauce, which I thought an odd addition to such a simple sauce. Then I made it and discovered that the butter not only adds flavor but it lends a silky texture that wouldn’t quite be achieved without it. As with this tomato soup recipe, the addition of butter - even just a tablespoon - is used along with flour to make a roux, which both thickens the soup and creates a luscious velvetyness without turning it into a creamy soup. This is a pure tomatoey tomato soup that is so good it is sure to become a favorite.
Adapted from Fine Cooking Issue 91
Yields about 9 cups
Note: I often add a pinch of fennel pollen, what I call my secret weapon, to soups. This soup certainly doesn’t need it, but just a smidge of it adds a bright floral and anise flavor that’s just beautiful! You can get it on Amazon here.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 28-ounce can, plus 1 14-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes, including the juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To prepare the soup:
In a large, non-reactive pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts.
Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned. Add the flour and stir to coat the onion and garlic.
Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring continuously to make sure the flour does not stick to the bottom and is fully incorporated.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Discard the thyme sprig and let the soup cool briefly.
For a smooth soup, puree in batches in a blender. For a soup with some tomato texture (I like mine with a bit of chunk), then blend in the pot with an immersion blender until your desired consistency.
Variations: make it creamy by adding a bit of creme fraiche or heavy cream. Just whisk in until your desired creaminess.
Garnish with herb croutons, freshly chopped basil, cheese, or grilled cheese “soldiers” (cut the grilled cheese into strips for dipping - my 6-year-old daughter’s favorite!).