I made an EPIC tomato soup the other day. And I don’t bandy the term “epic” around lightly.
Being a born and bred Alberta baby of the 80’s, I know winter- I know cold; because growing up it was de rigueur to experience WEEKS of -30C. So when I relocated to Toronto, the comparably mild winters were easy to manage, but like most transplants, I’ve gone soft. Like, complain-about-0C, soft.
And last week the mild winter city of Toronto got cold- really cold; so I did what any chef does, I made soup.
The most delicious tomato soup ever.
But first, let’s talk about soup cookery.
SOUP IS ARTISTRY, but so often people don’t give soup cookery the time and respect it deserves. Soup is an exercise in layering flavour, which means you can’t just throw all the ingredients in water, bring it to a boil and call it dinner. Oh no, no, no, no, NO!
Classic soups, like tomato, take time; so, although, I love a quick meal, this is not that. But I wholeheartedly promise you that the work is 100% worth it.
So let’s begin.
There are some very important things to consider when making soup, and it’s so very important to address these considerations; because once you understand these key soup making fundamentals, ALL your soups will be amazing from hence forth!
STOCK + BROTH
Often stock and broth are conflated but they are different things. Stock is the result of boiling bones, seasonings and meat with water; while bone broth is the strained broth of boiled collagen dense beef bones with herbs, spices and water.
If you take one thing from this post, let it be this, NEVER make soup with water, you’re letting your soup down if you do. Because soup is an exercise in layering flavours, if one of your main components is flavourless water, you’re fighting a losing battle; and you’ll likely end up using WAY more salt to season than need be, in an effort to bring up the flavour.
If you ever see a soup recipe without onion, run the other way. Seriously. Onions are the base of EVERY soup I prepare. Now, mirepoix, the trinity aka base of every soup or sauce, is onion, celery and carrot. That said, I rarely use all three when making soup, just onions mostly, but in this recipe you are going to see garlic, because without garlic this soup wouldn’t be what it is.
Blended soups toe a very dangerous line, in that they can very easily give the “baby food” vibe if texture is not considered. Pureed soup alone is one-note, and even the most delicious of soups, when served blended and without consideration to texture, still fall flat. In this recipe you will roast halved tomatoes and whole tomatoes, the halves will be set aside and added to the soup once it’s been blended, the whole tomatoes get blended smooth. With the addition of THE garnish (see below) this soup is really something else.
A NOTE ABOUT TEXTURE kids, in most cases, HATE texture. As a picky eater I get it, so if this soup is for the mouths of littles, blend until completely smooth and reserve the tomato garnish for the adults at the table.
TOMATO SOUP FLAVOUR NOTE
Tomatoes are naturally acidic, even when roasted, so balancing the acidity is necessary to round out the flavour of any tomato soup- or dish for that matter. I use maple syrup most often, but I had a friend tell me that she read to add baking soda to balance acidity. So I’ll say this, whatever you’re making ask yourself “does this add anything to the recipe?” meaning, other than, say, balancing the acidity what else does adding baking soda give to the recipe. Maple syrup adds a depth of flavour with subtle sweetness AND balances the acidity, what else does the baking soda do? Stay curious intrepid home cooks!
The Game Changer- THE Garnish
The thing about tomato soup is that when cheese is in the mix tomato soup is next level, the quandary is then how to keep the cheese from settling at the bottom of your bowl or soup pot; the answer is this garnish.
This garnish is EVERYTHING. Like it does the absolute MOST for this soup.
The garnish is simple, crispy proscuitto, crispy basil and shredded parmesan; and not the sh*tty pre-grated dust, buy the block of parmesan and grate it from there. If you’re not willing to do the work, honestly, leave the cheese out.
CRISP the proscuitto in vegetable oil, heated in a non stick pan- medium heat or else it’s going to get smoky. Remove the proscuitto and place on a paper towel lined plate. To CRISP the basil leaves, add the basil to the same proscuitto oil, for 30 seconds, and place on a paper towel lined plate. While those cool, GRATE fresh parmesan. CHOP together fresh basil, crispy basil, crispy proscuitto and parmesan until it’s well combined. This is your garnish. This garnish will change your life.
By garnishing each bowl individually, at the time of serving, never again will cheese settle at the bottom of your soup!
The Recipe Cliff Notes
I get it, I scroll straight through to the recipe all the time, so here are the important parts of this one, should you be pressed for time ;)
Stock or bone broth as your base. WATER NEVER.
LAYER flavours. Caramelize onions. Roast vegetables. Do everything you can to create depth of flavour.
Not even the best soups can carry a texture-less presentation. TEXTURE is everything.
ALWAYS consider what each ingredient add to the soup. Function AND flavour should always be factored in.
Don’t sleep on the garnish because this garnish is life...I’m really selling this garnish because it’s that good.
Best Ever Tomato Soup
2 lbs cherry tomatoes
2 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dry oregano
2 tsp dry rosemary
1 tsp cinnamon
150 g proscuitto
3 cups strained tomatoes
1 litre beef stock (bone broth or vegetable stock)
10 basil leaves ( 5 for frying, 5 fresh)
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup olive, divided
2 tbsp maple syrup
S+P to taste
PREHEAT the oven to 375F.
Cut 1 cup of cherry tomatoes in half and toss with 1 tsp olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, 1 tsp rosemary and 1 tsp oregano, and lay on to a baking sheet. Toss the remaining whole cherry tomatoes wth 1 tbsp oil, salt, pepper, oregano and rosemary. And lay onto a baking sheet.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add 1 piece of hand torn prosciutto with the onions and garlic, season with 1 tsp of salt and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring consistently, until the onions are soft, fragrant and translucent. Add the strained tomatoes, maple syrup and stock and bring to a simmer.
Once the tomatoes are out of the oven, set the halves aside, and add the whole roasted tomatoes to the simmering stock. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add the coconut milk and blend, in batches, until completely smooth.
FOR THE GARNISH
In a non stick skillet, add enough vegetable to fill the skillet a half inch. Heat on medium heat and first cook the prosciutto, in batches, until crispy. Using the same out (remove any bacon bits leftover) crisp the basil leaves. 30 seconds MAX. Lay both the prosciutto and the basil on paper towel to cool. Chop together the crispy basil, prosciutto, fresh basil and parmesan.
Add the garnish tomatoes to a soup bowl, pour the soup over and garnish, liberally, with the garnish.