One of my favorite childhood memories is spending Christmas/winter break in Houlton, Maine. Even with 5 feet of snow, we’d make snow forts, sled, and snowmobile all over. Whenever we’d come in for lunch, my grandmother often had tomato soup and grilled cheese warm and waiting.
As a (somewhat) adult, I still love it. After making it several times, several different ways, I’ve developed this recipe that brings tomato soup to a new level. Campbell’s soup? No way. San Marzano tomatoes, caramelized onion, roasted garlic, and red wine elevate this classic to a new level. The parmesan croutons, I think, I even tastier and easier than grilled cheese. But by all means, the more cheese the better.
Adding the tomato paste after caramelizing the onion and developing a good crust is crucial in the smokey, rich flavor this soup has. As Chef Anne Burrell would say, “brown food tastes good!”
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
2T tomato paste
Head of roasted garlic
28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, whole
½ cup red wine
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
1tsp each dried thyme and oregano
2 dried bay leaves
½ cup half & half, or whole milk
3T parmesan, grated
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the top off a head of garlic. Lightly cover the tops with evoo, wrap tightly in foil, and cook until deep golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
In a large saucepan, heat the evoo over medium-low heat. Add the onion, stir, and cover. Allow to cook, covered for about 10 minutes. Uncover and allow the onions to slightly caramelize, about 15 minutes.
Chop the carrots and add to the pan. Cook a few minutes, stirring. Add the tomato paste and stir well. Allow the mixture to sit, about 10 minutes, to allow a brown crust to form. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the pot, then deglaze with the red wine, stirring to lift up the brown bits.
Add the tomatoes and break up with a potato masher (or crush by hand before adding). Add the stock, herbs, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook for about a half hour. Turn the heat off and remove the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, or blending in a blender (in batches), puree the soup until very smooth. Add the half & half and blend a bit more. Season with salt & pepper, to taste.
While the soup is simmering, preheat the oven to 400. Slice the ciabatta bread, brush with evoo, and top with the grated parmesan. Cook until toasted, about 10 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls, top with freshly ground black pepper, and a few parmesan croutons on the side for dunking.