For a long time, if you asked me what my absolute favorite meal was, I would reply, “Grilled cheese and tomato soup,” without any hesitation. Now, I have always loved a grilled cheese and still do, with a passion, in fact. But over the years, I realized that the other half of that duo was just not holding up its end of the bargain. I would dutifully make my can of tomato soup to go with my sandwich, and while it kind of worked as a counterpoint to a perfectly toasty, cheesy sandwich, it mostly just sucked. I know this is impolitic of me, but regular tomato soup is just so boring. The terrible mediocrity of it is what made me give up on the idea that grilled cheese and tomato soup was, indeed, my favorite meal. Something that most closely resembled ketchup water had no place in any of my favorites lists.
And then… dun dun dun.
I went to Nordstrom Cafe a few years ago on a lunch break and had a bowl of their Tomato-Basil Soup. The heavens opened up. I heard angels singing. This is what tomato soup should taste like! It actually tasted of tomatoes and the acidity was balanced by a perfect sweetness I couldn’t quite place. You could taste the basil, but it complemented the tomato flavor instead of overwhelming it. It had to be mine.
A quick google search turned up a copy-cat recipe that is incredibly close to the original. I’ve made it many times since then, making my own tweaks as I go. Turns out the untraceable sweetness is from carrots- genius! And dried basil is the perfect addition to tomato soup, as it turns out. Do you hear that? Perfect! And in the ultimate display of how much I love this soup, I often eat it without a grilled cheese in sight. That’s right, grilled cheese sandwiches used to be my only occasion for tomato soup, and now, I’m so busy digging into a bowl of this that the words “grilled cheese” don’t even enter my mind.
The last time I made it, I decided to forgo the grilled cheese altogether and get all fancy. I toasted up some little cubes of bread in a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt, and tossed them into my soup along with a hefty sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese. Needless to say, I was pretty impressed with myself on that one as soon as the combination left my spoon and found my taste buds. It only occurs to me now that I basically just put grilled cheese ingredients on top of my soup and called it a day. So there you have it- grilled cheese and tomato soup is back on top of my favorites list, just like that.
adapted after many renderings of this recipe
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
- 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled Roma tomatoes
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the carrots and onion and cook until beginning the vegetables begin to soften (10 minutes). Add basil and continue cooking until vegetables are completely soft, about another 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with their juices and broth and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer anywhere from 30 mins to an hour.
After the soup has cooled a bit, purée the soup with an immersion blender for about 30 seconds. If you don't have an immersion blender, a regular blender or food processor will work just fine- just be careful and work in batches so you don't get scalded, please!Stir in cream slowly, over low heat.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm. If you'd like, garnish with crumbles of fresh goat cheese and freshly toasted croutons.