There are a lot of crappy tomato soups out there. Why does this happen?! From grocery store delis to fancy bistros, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten excited for tomato soup only to be horribly disappointed by something that resembles watered-down ketchup moreso that my expectations. This is NOT that kind of tomato soup. Butter and onions are the trick to a slightly creamy texture and flavor foundation that steers this tomato soup far away from too sweet or too runny. Once you see how easy it is to make it, you’ll wonder why they heck there are so many crappy tomato soups out there, too.
If I’m lucky enough to find sweet onions at the grocery store, I like to use them when making this soup. But I’ve also made this with regular red onions or yellow onions; any of these will do perfectly well here.
As for the canned tomatoes, sometimes I look for cans with the Italian DOP label (Denominazione di Origine Protetta—a designation for Italian food goods that follow a strict set of guidelines to ensure quality) because I feel like being fancy and sometimes I don’t. Just look for whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes. Bear in mind that canned tomatoes always contain a pretty generous amount of salt; that’s why this recipe involves minimal seasoning and you’ll want to keep an eye on this and adjust the seasoning of your tomato soup according to your tastes and the quantity of salt already coming along with the canned tomatoes you use.
This is one of the recipes I keep stored in my mental recipe book for creativity mind blocks or times when laziness overpowers my love for grocery store wanderlust. This tomato soup is so perfect for those times—it uses ingredients that I always have on hand and is a wonderful pairing for a sundry of main courses. (Although, let’s be real, there’s no better combo than tomato soup + grilled cheese.)
Amazingly Easy Tomato Soup
(Makes 2 big side servings)
- 28 oz canned whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into rough wedges
- 4–6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1–2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
- Optional garnishes, such as fresh basil, cracked black pepper, chives, heavy cream, creme fraiche, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, etc.
In a Dutch oven or medium-sized pot, gently melt the butter on medium-low heat. Add the onions and sweat them until they start to become translucent, like in the photo above. Then add the garlic and turn down the heat to low, stirring regularly until the garlic becomes fragrant and loses its raw bite but doesn’t brown. At this point you can add the entire can of tomatoes, including the liquid. Fill the can a quarter of the way with water (about 7–8 ounces) and slosh it around to get every last bit of tomatoey flavor; add this water to the pot as well.
Carefully transfer the contents of the pot into a blender, liquify, and then return everything to the pot on low heat.
Check for seasoning. This is when I like to add a splash of my secret ingredient—fish sauce. Yes, it sounds unconventional but I love adding fish sauce to any sort of tomato-based soup or pasta sauce; I think it brings such a wonderful savory meaty flavor into the situation. However, if you want to keep this soup vegetarian or don’t want to trust me on how incredible tomatoes + fish sauce will be, you can use salt instead. There’s also a possibility that if you had a lot of salt in your canned tomatoes and/or you used salted butter that you won’t need to season at all. You won’t need to cook down this soup much after it comes out of the blender, so be sure to taste it at that point and add seasoning to your preference.
Keep the soup going on low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s hot all the way through and starting to bubble or simmer. At this point, it’s ready to serve!
This is when you really have options. What do you have lying around your kitchen that could make a good garnish and do you care enough about presentation to dig it out? If you plan on turning your attention to making a grilled cheese sandwich, just some freshly cracked black pepper—or nothing at all—may be perfectly suitable to finish off the soup. I wanted to do something pretty for this post so in addition to the pepper, I swirled some drops of heavy cream into the top and sprinkled chopped fresh basil and chive blossoms. Sometimes I’ll drizzle olive oil on top or dollop a tiny scoop of creme fraiche. Do what you want with it…but just don’t buy crappy tomato soup ever again.
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