Recipe: Hearty Tomato Basil Soup

As autumn sets in and the temperatures outside fall accordingly, nothing warms the body and soul quite like a sturdy bowl of soup. Among the easiest, least expensive and most nutritious to make is tomato soup. Served as an appetizer or a dinner with bread or sandwiches, it is a perennial favorite that can be tailored to a variety of tastes.

If your idea of making soup is opening a can and turning on a microwave, I have good news for you: Making it the homemade way involves not a whole lot more work, yet tastes worlds better. And because you control the ingredients that go into your soup, there’s no guessing as to how much sodium or other less-than-good-for-you things lurk in that bowl.

My version of this soup uses canned tomatoes in diced and crushed form. Not only are these main ingredients inexpensive, they’re always “in season” and ready when you are. Because this tomato soup relies on the real thing and plenty of other veggies, it’s thick and hearty. This recipe calls for chicken broth, but for a vegetarian version, vegetable broth can be used instead. The soup can be served chunky or blended for an even texture. If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it. The pureeing can also be done in small portions in a regular blender.

Lastly, I like to introduce both dry and fresh basil leaves for added essence. If you want some kick, add crushed peppers or even a dash of horseradish to the mix. Here’s how to make tomato soup.

HEARTY TOMATO BASIL SOUP

(Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large celery sticks, rinsed and chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 16 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Garnish: Fresh basil, thinly sliced

Step 1: Chop up the onions, carrots and celery, then grab a large pot and heat the oil on medium. Add the chopped veggies and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. (In classic French cooking, this trio is called mirepoix.)

Step 2: Add the garlic and cook for a minute, stirring often. Doesn’t this smell great?

Step 3: Add everything except the garnish of fresh basil and stir well. Heat on high and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 4: Taste and season with extra salt or pepper as needed. Puree the soup, if desired, using an immersion blender or in small portions in a regular blender (be careful of steam build-up, removing blender lid slowly).

Step 5: Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with fresh basil and enjoy.

Congratulations: You’ve just made tomato soup in less than an hour. Enjoy with a sandwich, crackers or fresh bread. Refrigerate any leftovers promptly.

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