The first winter I lived in D.C., I ate soup almost everyday for lunch. It was quick, it was cheap, and it was warming. The place that sold it was right across from my office, so I’d walk over, grab it, and run back to my desk and eat it. It was one of the highlights of my day.
Every year when it starts getting colder outside, I gravitate toward soup. I found this recipe for tomato soup the other day and I knew I had to make it. I saved it for the night it was supposed to rain and hail, and I made enough so I’d have leftovers to take to work the next day.
This soup is great for a bunch of reasons, but one of them is that it uses up old ingredients. If you have a few tomatoes laying around and they’re on their way out, throw them into the soup.
You can make croutons out of old bread. I bought a loaf of ciabatta on Friday from one of my favorite bakeries in St. Louis, Union Loafers, and I saved half to make this soup.
I’ve never really made soup with bread in it. I always dip bread in or tear pieces up and throw it in to eat, but I’ve never cooked bread *into* soup. It’s kind of a weird concept and a strange feeling when you’re whisking cubed bread into liquid. That sounds gross, probably because it is.
But the finished product is not gross at all. The bread breaks down and gives the soup a thick consistency. The original recipe described it as “rustic,” and I’d agree. It’s not a smooth purée or a chicken broth. It’s a chunky, imperfect, weird looking soup. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The key to making this soup is getting good ingredients. You don’t need the best tomatoes or bread, but it helps. Good olive oil is key because you’re basically using half a cup throughout the recipe. The fresher the ingredients, the more this soup will taste restaurant quality.
Here’s a song I’ve been jamming out to lately. It’s good for cold fall nights when you don’t want to go to work the next day so you make soup to distract yourself.
Tomato Bread Soup with Croutons (adapted from Bon Appétit)
handful of fresh basil
1/2 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
3 pounds ripe tomatoes (any variety except cherry tomatoes will work), cored, cut into large pieces
3 slices thick day-old or stale country-style bread with crusts, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Place basil leaves and stems in a large saucepan with 2-3 large garlic cloves and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat then reduce heat to low and allow the mixture to steam while you make the soup.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, place 1 cup of bread pieces on top, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the bread until it’s evenly coated and then bake in the oven about 8-10 minutes until golden brown and toasted.
In the meantime, make the soup. Slice the remaining garlic. Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until evenly golden brown and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir the mixture every so often until the tomato juices are bubbling, about 8-10 minutes. Add three cups of bread and stir to coat. Strain the basil mixture into the soup and bring the ingredients to a simmer. Cook, whisking every couple minutes, until the bread dissolves and the soup becomes thick. It takes about 10-15 minutes to cook.
Stir one ounce of grated Parmesan into the soup along with the reserved basil leaves. Cook the soup two more minutes, stirring constantly, until it’s bright and shiny. Serve with croutons, more grated Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!