This is me letting go…Call me Type A, consistent, reliable, I rarely get lost, I’m always on time. I’m a recipe follower but in the past year or so have learned to cook with (some) wild abandon and deviate from the instructions. Inspired by the Cooks Illustrated Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup and the mission to replicate a more-than-likely healthier version of Panera Bread’s Creamy Tomato Soup with the same YUM taste. Thus was born…
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Asiago
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling on each serving
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 TBL minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1/8-1/4 crushed red hot pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 (28 oz) cans of either whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes packed in juice
1 1/2 TBLS brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh grated asiago cheese
1 small loaf of french bread or whatever leftover bread you have*
2 TBLS heavy cream
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 TBLS brandy, optional (1 for the cook, 1 for the soup…kidding, both BOTH for the soup.)
2 TBLS fresh basil, chopped or get fancy and chiffonade them..oohhh nifty.
Salt and Pepper
1. Heat 2 TBLS oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently and cook until onion is softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and their juices. If using whole tomatoes, use a potato masher to break them into smaller pieces. If you use crushed, no work!
Stir in the brown sugar, asiago cheese, heavy cream and bread to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until bread is softened and mushy- about 5-7 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and add it to the garbage.
2. The smoothing process. Add 2 TBL olive oil and use an immersion blender to break it all down and process until smooth and creamy.
3. Immersion Blender Warnings- turn it off before you lift it to move it to other parts of the pot to process the chunks of bread and tomato. It tends to want to suck down to the bottom. I was thinking this would be a useful tip to post as I was thinking of it- I did not heed my own warning! Clean Up!
This is going to get embarrasing..the anxiety. I do believe I had more on me than the appliance actually. Hair, shirt, face, cute charcoal grey cardigan, ear.
And because I want you to feel the clean up pain..one more for the road.
Never fear the clean up crew was underfoot to take care of the floor at least.
4. You can also use a blender. Transfer half of the soup to the blender and add 1 TBLS of olive oil. Process until smooth. Move it to a large bowl. Repeat the process with the remaining soup adding another TBLS of olive oil. Return the blended soup back to the pot.
5. Stir in chicken broth, brandy and fresh basil. Return to a boil to warm up the new ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve in lovely bowls with some parmesan cheese or more asiago grated over top. Swirl a little olive oil over the top of each serving.
Serve with giant crusty hunks of good bread for dipping or go one better and serve with a warm, oozy Caprese Panini. Good old grilled cheese will do just fine for a smile and warm belly.
*I sometimes use stale, day old/er bread and nuke it in the microwave to soften back up so it’s easier to cut into cubes. Rock hard bread blows in to a thousand bread crumbs when you cut it! Even good ole’ sandwich bread (about 3-4 pieces will work). Use “fancy” bread if you’re feeling sassy- I used asiago smoothered bread from Panera Bread once and HOLY Tomato it was aMazing (say it with the emphasis on the M.)
Enjoy! Also another freezer-friendly recipe- I often serve for one and freeze for later.
Off to eat some warm soup on a cold, rainy night and grade papers so my hobby doesn’t take over my day job!