Unlike many people I know, a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup does not conjure happy childhood memories for me. It doesn’t give me warm fuzzies as I never liked tomato soup as a kid. I was much more a chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup kind of girl.
Somewhere along the road, in my years of working in a restaurant, I changed my mind about tomato soup. At the time, I used the freshly prepared soup as an excuse to eat lots of the little grilled cheese bites the restaurant usually served as a garnish. Eventually I started to enjoy the soup on its own and looked forward to the days that tomato soup appeared as a special on the restaurant’s lunch menu.
These days I have to make the tomato soup myself and I’d much rather have a bowl of it than almost any other soup. It’s the soup I turn to when I want something warm and comforting and not too hard to make. Most of the time I top it with homemade Parmesan and garlic croutons. But if I’m feeling particularly decadent, or reminiscent of my restaurant years, I’ll make a fresh grilled cheese sandwich and slice it into pieces for my soup.
Like most of the soups I make, this turns out slightly different each time I make it as I’m not a stickler about measuring ingredients. People have asked me for this recipe more than a few times so I finally made note of my alterations to the recipe below. Don’t stress about what size onion you should use or measuring the wine exactly. The soup will be good no matter what.
Recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- Four 14 ounce cans diced, crushed or whole tomatoes (or use fresh ones if it’s summer and they’re actually in season)
- 1 scant tablespoon white rice
- 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian soup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or basil (again, use fresh if you’ve got it)
- 1 cup water
- Warm a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
- To the warm pan, add olive oil, butter, onion, leek, celery and a pinch of salt.
- Cover pan and cook until vegetables are soft but not brown. Add water as necessary to keep them from browning.
- Add garlic and white wine to vegetables in pan and cook for additional 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, rice, another pinch of salt, chicken broth, bay leaf and thyme or basil to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes fall apart.
- Add 1 cup water and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the rice is tender.
- Remove the bay leaf.
- If you have an immersion blender, purée the soup in the pot until smooth, about 1 minute. If you do not have an immersion blender, carefully ladle the soup into a regular blender until the blender jar is about one-third full. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining soup.
- Add salt to taste. If soup is too thick, add more water as needed.
- Garnish with Parmesan croutons or grilled cheese sandwich bites if desired.