For me, the best part about the holiday season is getting together with friends. And it honestly can’t get any better when I get to share my love of cooking with them! Last night we had a four-person dinner and small gift exchange at my friend Beth’s house. Beth and I had been planning the menu for weeks and we finally decided on Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, a recipe I had ran across a year ago on foodnetwork.com when it was snowing in Nashville and we needed something warm and delicious. Then we also made the perfect tomato soup accomplice, Gourmet Grilled Cheeses (with every type of cheese imaginable, marinated tomatoes, and avocado!). The grilled cheeses were definitely a collaborative effort (thanks Beth!)! I whipped up some artisan cheese bread (I’ll save the recipe for another day, sorry! ;-)) and brought it over for the sandwiches and then I prepared the tomato soup there while we enjoyed great conversation in the kitchen.
Here are some iPhone pics of the night courtesy of my friend Shanna:
Okay, so, if you thought this recipe was going to be a low-cal, healthy, I work out at the gym 5 hours a day and I only eat leaves, please walk away now…as you can take away the cream and butter, but I wouldn’t recommend it. This is a perfect (just the way it is) indulgence!! YUMMMMMMMY!! I mean, that Paula Dean is on to something! 😉
Also, before you just go ahead and jump into this recipe, know that you need to have an immersion blender. You can puree it in batches in a blender as well.
What you’ll need:
2 (28-ounce) cans of very good quality tomatoes, San Marzano are my favorite but roma’s will be fine as well, I usually buy Cento brand, they’re a little bit more expensive but they’re worth every penny! I also go with whole tomatoes after having found it difficult to strain the chopped tomatoes they recommended in the original recipe.
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 stalks of celery, diced
4 medium carrots, sliced
4 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
4 to 8 bay leaves (I ended up using 8 last night, but I’ve used 4 in the past)
8 (YES, 8) tablespoons of butter
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups heavy whipping cream (okay, it’s optional, but you’re already there with the butter, just go all the way!)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Strain the tomatoes, reserving the juices, and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until the outside of the tomatoes are beginning to look caramelized.
3. Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven or stock pot (6.5 quarts or more), heat the remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrots, onions, and garlic, and cook until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Chop the tomatoes, if whole, and add them along with the roasting oil and liquid to the pot. Add the reserved tomato juice, chicken broth, bay leaves, and butter. Simmer until vegetables are tender and the flavors are marrying nicely, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Add the basil and cream, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth and there are no remaining pieces of hard bay leaves.
6. Simmer for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve!
I always love making this large pot of soup because I love to repurpose it as pasta sauce with tortellini’s the next day!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did! Merry Christmas and GO EAT SOMETHING!