Tomato basil soup is one of my favorite summertime treats and one I enjoy when the tomatoes are red and ripe! But we don’t always want to wait until summer, so I’ve developed a recipe using canned tomatoes which has the taste and depth of flavor you expect from fresh tomatoes. Fire-roasted canned tomatoes plus a nice, slow simmer produce a soup which you will love, and that your whole family will be asking for again and again.
This post was originally published on January 11th, 2016. It has been extensively rewritten.
Today I’ve gone back to my archives to update one of my old recipes. This recipe is a continual favorite here and one I’ve loved for many years! But the photos were a little bleh and the whole post needed a good polish.
Tomato Basil Soup
Many years ago my husband and I used to frequent a local Italian restaurant. We went there often enough to have a favorite waiter and to get to try all the chef’s seasonal specialties. Ahhh, life pre-kid! 🙂
One of our favorites was his tomato basil soup with a red wine crouton. It was just amazing! It was one of those dishes which is a revelation.
But it was seasonal so it was only available a few months a year, and not even much then it all depended on how he felt about the tomatoes that week. What was a person to do who loved the soup and wanted more? If you’re me, it was time to figure out how to make it at home.
How do you make tomato basil soup?
To make tomato basil soup, saute onions then add canned roasted tomatoes and simmer until tender. Puree the soup smooth, then top with basil, olive oil, croutons, and parmesan cheese.
Canned Fire Roasted Tomatoes
The first thing I did was switch to canned tomatoes. During those few weeks a year when local, ripe tomatoes are available you can totally roast fresh tomatoes and make soup, but this soup is for ALL the year! (I’ll give you amounts and times for fresh, don’t worry.)
However, I didn’t want just any tomatoes. I wanted intense, fire roasted tomatoes since that was going to give me the best flavor and be the closest to the original soup.
What tomatoes to use?
There are a number of brands out there which sell fire roasted tomatoes, but my favorite is Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes. I buy either the whole or the diced and have been happy with the results.
Onions & Garlic
The second thing I did was to decide on the onions and garlic. Just tomatoes or tomatoes with a bit of garlic wasn’t quite right. What the soup needed was a fair amount of onions to balance the flavors. One white onion diced up is just perfect.
The third thing I did was to decide on the correct ratio of stock to tomatoes. You don’t want so much stock that your soup is thin but not so little you’re eating tomato sauce. It’s a balance!
As for the type of stock, it’s up to you. We’re meat eaters here so chicken stock is something I always have in the house and I tend to use it in soups. However, I do use vegetable stock sometimes for us (and always if I’m serving a vegetarian/vegan!). Either will make a great soup so long as you like the flavor of the stock and you pick a low or no sodium variety.
Why low/no sodium?
By limiting the amount of salt in the stock you can control how salty the final soup ends up being. It is much better to add some salt to balance the flavors and perk it up than to be dealing with over-salted soup.
Here is where things get fun! And where I most closely follow the original restaurant soup. That soup was as much about the toppings as it was about the tomatoes.
Red Wine Croutons
Making red wine croutons fairly straightforward and 100% worth it!
What do you need to make red wine croutons?
- Thickly sliced country bread. Leftover boule is a great choice since it has a good crust to middle ratio.
- Olive oil and a brush. A little sprinkle of kosher salt is nice too.
- Dry red wine.
Start by taking your slices of bread and either leave them rustic (with the crust) or trim it off to make rectangular croutons.
Then brush the bread with the olive oil and toast it up. For this bit you can use your broiler in the oven, a toaster oven, or fire up the grill to give the bread a good browning.
Once you have toasted croutons, it’s time to dip them in wine. Use a dry red wine that you enjoy the flavor of, but isn’t expensive. You will taste the wine, but it’s going to be in the soup so you’re not going to get all the subtle flavors you would get from drinking the wine.
What style of wine to use?
I like a dry, fruit-forward wine. Good choices would include Red Zinfandel (which is my go-to), Shiraz, or a Sangiovese (such as a Chianti).
What to serve with tomato basil soup?
We love to have this soup as the first course in a special dinner or as a vegetarian main with a salad on a weeknight. You could also go retro and have the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. The choice is yours!
To have the tomato soup as a main dish, here are a few salads I would recommend to serve alongside:
If you try my recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil Soup, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Canned fire roasted tomatoes are the secret to an easy and delicious tomato basil soup! This homemade soup needs no cream for a rich flavor and it's a great part of a healthy diet.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 28-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes, either whole or diced
- 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock low or no sodium
- 1 pinch granulated sugar
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 4 slices country style Italian bread, cut into large croutons
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 cups dry red wine
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
- parmesan cheese
In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium-low. Add the onions and kosher salt. Saute, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the garlic, thyme, and oregano to the pot and saute for another 30 seconds.
Pour in the stock (either vegetable or chicken), tomatoes, and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to produce a gentle simmer.
Partially cover the pot and let simmer for 50-60 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and let cool a few minutes.
Using a stick blender, or in batches in a regular blender, puree the soup until it's as smooth as you like it.
Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed.
Return the soup to the pot (if you took it out) and bring the soup back to a simmer before serving.
To prepare the croutons, cut thick slices from a country style dinner bread. Then cut the bread into large croutons to fit in the bowls.
Brush each piece of bread with olive oil, then toast or grill the bread until golden brown.
Pour the wine into a bowl large enough for the croutons. Dip the toasted croutons into the wine until they are fairly well saturated.
Ladle soup into each bowl.
Then carefully place a crouton or two (depending on the size) onto the top of the soup.
Scatter sliced basil around. Shave some parmesan over. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top.
- Vegetarian: Avoid imported parmesan and stick to vegetarian brands or skip the cheese altogether.
- Red Wine Croutons: For those who don't (or cannot) drink, skip the red wine and simply use toasted croutons in the soup.
- Red Wine: Use a moderately priced dry red wine which you enjoy the flavor of but wouldn't be sad to put it in soup.
- Fire Roasted Tomatoes: I use Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes. They have excellent flavor and are organic.
- Make Ahead: After pureeing the soup (step 6), you can refrigerate the soup overnight to serve the next day. Or you can freeze the soup in a well sealed container for up to 2 months.