At restaurants I am always attracted to the homemade tomato soups that are rich and thick, perfectly seasoned and just so much better than the canned stuff. So being that it's winter, and I love to make very season-appropriate meals and all, I thought this would be a perfect time to try my hand at homemade tomato soup with my (from scratch) italian croutons. I have read enough recipes that I just decided to "wing" it and do it my way. It actually turned out scrumptious!
I decided I wanted to make a tomato and basil soup that is just a bit creamy but very flavorful. I let my soup slow cook all day in the crock pot, but you can just let it simmer over the stove top if you like -- it would be good either way. It did reduce down quite a bit in the crock pot, since it cooked for about 8 hours, but it doesn't have to stay in there that long (I ended up having an unexpectedly lengthy evening at work that day). Now looking back I would have probably roasted my tomatoes in the oven over high heat to allow them to caramelize and bring out the flavors even more -- I will next time. I think that treating each component of a recipe with thoughtfulness and asking how you can improve an ingredient like that, makes for a much better meal! This recipe is so heart warming and good. The crunchy Italian croutons are a perfect addition to absorb some of the savory soup. I enjoyed this Tomato Basil soup as much as I would from any restaurant!
3-4 Roma tomatoes
1 small carrot
Can crushed tomatoes
Crushed Red Pepper
Ground black pepper
Half & Half
Dice the carrots and shallots finely, and chop the Roma tomatoes into small pieces. I didn't seed the tomatoes. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add the carrots to soften. Once softened a bit, add the shallots and tomatoes allow to become tender. Add about 1 tsp of minced garlic & red pepper flakes to taste (about 1/2 tsp for me). Saute a couple of minutes, or until flavors are infused and the garlic starts to melt. Salt & pepper a bit.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and about a Tbsp. of tomato paste. Stir all together and add chicken broth until the desired consistency. Julienne the basil (about 10 leaves) thinly and add to the soup. Then season well with Italian seasoning and salt & pepper (and I usually add a dash of sugar to balance out the acidic tomatoes).
Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down and simmer for at least 30-45 minutes or until you taste and all of the flavors are blended nicely and is cooked down just a bit. (After adding the last ingredients is when you would add this mixture to the crock pot on low heat.) The longer you cook the soup (especially over the stove), the better it is. Once it it about ready to serve, ladle about 1 1/2 cups out into a blender and puree. Pour this mixture back in the pot and stir all together. This will thicken the soup and give it a smooth texture. If you don't want any chunky tomatoes in your soup you can blend all the soup and put it back in the pot.
Add a little bit of half and half to make a creamy tomato soup. You can add as much as you like, but I just poured in not quite 1/4 cup. You don't have to add any for a fresher and even healthier soup. Ladle into bowls and add hot croutons on the top. Garnish with more basil or cheese. Yum!
Dice day old bread or whatever sandwich bread you have on hand. (I have used anything from whole wheat bread to italian bread to plain white.) Put in a bowl and add enough olive oil so that all the bread is coated well. Add Italian seaoning, garlic salt, finely grated parmesan cheese (optional) and a little pepper. Stir together well and pour out in a single layer onto a greased , shallow pan. Put in the oven on 400-425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until deep golden brown and crunchy. These are delicious, and I make this all the time for my salads!