This recipe is from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. I love her recipes and her show and own two of her cookbooks. I made this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago. Thatcher ate two huge bowls and would have eaten more if I let him! You can find the original recipe here at the Food Network site. The recipe below has a few modifications to make it more cost effective and fit our family's taste. Honestly, as is it is a little high on the price to be considered a $5 meal but I wanted to post it because if you have basil and tomatoes from your garden, this soup would be nearly free! Even obtaining one of these ingredients from a friend's garden would bring the price down by $3.00. Spring will be here before we know it so if this recipe isn't in the budget for winter, tuck it away for spring when everyone's gardens will be full of goodness.
Also, I love this soup because it is not laden with tons of heavy cream like so many tomato basil soups are, yet it has enormous flavor. I serve it simply with homemade croutons and a bit of Parmesan cheese. Grilled cheese sandwiches are always a favorite with any tomato soup or a chicken Caesar salad would be wonderful if you wanted to add some protein.
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt (may not need if you are using stock, esp. if it's not low sodium)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions, about 2 onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 quart chicken stock or water
1/4 cup heavy cream (not in original recipe but just a bit add a lot of flavor in my opinion)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt (if using), and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
2. In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes (if using) for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add garlic and cook two more minutes.
3. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock/water. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
4. Add 1/4 cup heavy cream.
5. You have several options here depending on the kitchen gadgets you own and how chunky you want your soup. The original recipe calls for a food mill but I use my immersion blender to make a really smooth soup (and don't have to dirty up any additional bowls or appliances). A food processor or blender would work well too, just be extra careful when mixing/pureeing really hot liquids.
6. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.
Cost Breakdown: $9.62
$ 3.00 - 3 pounds plum tomatoes
$ .42 - olive oil
$ .02 - 2 teaspoons sea salt (may not need if you are using stock, esp. if it's not low sodium)
$ .04 - black pepper
$ 1.00 - 2 cups chopped yellow onions, about 2 onions
$ .24 - garlic cloves
$ . 14 - butter
$ 1.50 -canned plum tomatoes (sale)
$2.99 - fresh basil
$ .02 - dried thyme
free - 1 quart chicken stock or water (ckn stock left over from here or here)
$ .25 - heavy cream
If you want to add homemade croutons here is how I do it:
I use thick slices of the homemade whole wheat bread I make for our family, but any bread will do. Cut the crust off and brush an olive oil/herb mixture over both sides of the bread. I like to add about 1/4 tsp of basil and 1/4 tsp of thyme with a bit of salt and pepper to about 1/4 cup olive oil for my croutons. You could add garlic powder if you wanted garlicky ones! Cut bread into large chunks. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 - 20 minutes turning every few minutes until all sides are browned. These are wonderful sprinkled on top of your soup. Enjoy!