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Sweet and Smoky Roasted Tomato Soup

Mariel here. When I was growing up, tomato soup fell into the same category as mayo, cottage cheese and green olives – totally vile. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how people happily dug into such heinous food crimes. My mother – a lifelong fan of all of the above – was particularly fond of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, using it primarily as a receptacle for dunking oyster crackers. “Someday you’ll love this,” she’d smirk knowingly. “Sure,” I’d mutter, “And I’ll wear blazers and complain about the weather.” Oh. Right.

I’m not sure when it happened, or why I decided to give it another whirl, but this former foe is now a beloved BFF. Although it isn’t exactly tomato season, tomato soup doesn’t require fruit that’s particularly red, ripe or juicy. It doesn’t matter if it’s of the beefsteak, vine-ripe or plum persuasion. All that matters is that you roast the bejesus out of them. A 30-minute stint in the oven transforms even the straggliest toms into sweet, entree-worthy specimens.

Season the pot with a hint of smoky bacon and you’ve got a meal that the kids might even agree to. Or you can always save the recipe for the next 25 years. They’ll come around…eventually.

Sweet and Smoky Roasted Tomato Soup
Makes 4 bowl-size servings or 8 cup-size servings

3½ lbs tomatoes (I used a mixture of grape tomatoes and tomatoes on the vine) – $7
6 whole cloves of garlic – stock
3 strips of bacon (pancetta or turkey bacon also work well) – $3.39
1 cup of sweet onions, finely chopped – $0.89
1½ cups of low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock – stock
4 Tablespoons of olive oil – stock
1 teaspoon of sugar – stock
1 Tablespoon tomato paste – $0.89
A pinch of dried thyme – stock
A pinch of dried basil – stock
A pinch of chili powder – stock
4 Tablespoons flour – stock
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter – stock
1 cup skim milk – stock
1 teaspoon of honey – stock
Salt and pepper – stock
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $12.17
Cost per cup-size serving: $1.52

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. If you’re using bigger tomatoes (like beefsteak, vine-ripened or even plum tomatoes) cut into 1½-inch-thick slices. Grape and cherry tomatoes can be roasted whole. Toss with olive oil, 6 cloves of garlic, sugar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are super tender and have rendered their juices.

3. In a stock pot, fry three strips of bacon until very crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon, crumble and set aside to drain on paper towels.

4. Caramelize the onion in the bacon drippings over medium heat. It’ll take about 12-15 minutes, stir frequently to prevent the onions from burning.

5. Add the roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic to the onions, then add the stock, tomato paste, chili powder, thyme and basil. Mix well and increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes. Taste and add salt & pepper, as desired.

6. Transfer the soup in batches to a food processor. Puree until fairly smooth. Return the puree to the stock pot and simmer through over low heat. Taste again.

7. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the butter until it melts over medium heat. Whisk in the flour creating a thick paste. Slowly add in the milk until fully incorporated; then add in the honey. Whisk continuously (to prevent burning and clumping) for about 3 minutes, or until you’ve created a creamy white sauce.

8. Add the cream sauce to the tomato soup and combine well. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Taste the soup one last time to adjust seasonings.

9. Serve the soup hot with crumbled bacon as a garnish.