Campbell’s, eat your heart out!
Did you know that for just a bit more trouble than opening a can, you can make fresh tomato soup from scratch? Yep. And it won’t taste like a cross between ketchup, tin, salt, and sugar. Instead, it’ll be loaded with flavor — tomato flavor. Plus basil and oregano and perhaps just a pinch of red pepper. Oh man, now we’re hungry again just thinking about it. See what you’ve gone and made us do?
So, how do you make such a soup? For us, that starts off by saving vegetable scraps as we trim up stuff for dinner. As we’ve said before, one of our New Year’s resolutions was to save vegetable scraps that we might normally toss but are still perfectly edible, and make stock once or twice a week. At first it seemed troublesome, but now it’s nearly second nature. Once we have enough trimmings, we just place them in a pan, cover with water, simmer 45 minutes, then strain. Fresh stock.
While this soup is best with fresh tomatoes, you can make it with canned, too. Canned tomatoes even have the advantage of being pre-cooked, so the soup will come together faster (but it won’t be as tasty). For stock, make your own, the same day if possible, as the flavors in stock get “muddied” after a couple of days (or keep your home-made stock in the freezer). Now for that odd ingredient: vinegar. What the heck is that doing in there? It adds a bit of acid which, like salt, brings out flavors. If you don’t have a nice vinegar, use lemon juice, instead. Don’t worry, in this amount of soup you can’t taste a tablespoon as vinegar; instead, you’ll taste flavors that just pop!
Procedure in detail:
We promised a tomato soup that was only slightly harder than opening a can, so not too much here.
Simmer broth. Place the stock in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. We like to bring the broth to a simmer while we cut up the tomatoes; that way, the soup is already heating when we add the tomatoes. It save a minute or two of prep time.
Add tomatoes. We use about a 1-to-1 ration of chopped tomatoes to broth. If you like a thinner soup, use fewer tomatoes; chunkier, use more. Also, if you’re going to be adding anything else to the soup, such as pasta, you’ll probably want a thinner broth, so keep that in mind. Once the tomatoes are added, bring it all to a simmer, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to break down.
Add spice. Now, stir in the oregano, basil, paprika, and red pepper flake, if using, and the vinegar. Let simmer for 5 minutes, no longer, since you’ll boil away the flavor of the basil. If you want to add pasta, you can add it any time the soup is simmering; just make sure the basil goes in about 5 minutes before you serve.
Taste and adjust. Give the soup a taste and add salt and pepper as needed. The amount will depend on your stock. Our stock is pretty much salt-free, so we have to add about a teaspoon — maybe even a bit more — but the only way to tell if it’s the right amount is by tasting.
That’s it. Tomato soup with pieces of tomatoes right in it. Who would have figured? Apparently not commercial manufacturers of soup. And we will say that this soup is better than anything you’ll find in a can, too, and really no more difficult. Oh sure, you need to cut some tomatoes into chunks, but that’s it. We make versions of this soup often, sometimes with only basil, sometimes with a few veggies added, and sometimes we vary the herbs and spices. When we want a heartier meal, we add some pasta. It’s just a great, versatile, easy recipe. Four stars.