My husband and I are fanatics of creamy tomato-basil soup. We have probably tried it wherever it's offered, Panera Bread, Cosi, Nordstrom Cafe and La Madeleine - to name a few - and we both have our favorites. Mine is Nordstrom Cafe's version hands down. It's just the right amount of creaminess and doesn't have an overbearing tartness that affects some of the other soups. I don't know how they do it, but I suspect there is no shortage of salt, butter and cream in the mix. So after I went tomato picking at a local pick-your-own farm last weekend and came home with 12 beautiful, ripe tomatoes, I figured it would be a good time to try my hand at making this favorite at home.
I had seen a recipe in the Williams-Sonoma catalog that came in last week's mail so I went on their website and sought it out. In the process I came across a different recipe on there for a Cream of Tomato Soup with Pancetta. I used this recipe as a base but made some changes, basically because for one, I didn't like the idea of throwing raw tomatoes into the soup. So I roasted mine first. Secondly, the WS recipe seemed to be a little wimpy on the flavors so I kicked up the amount of garlic and crushed red pepper and added in some basil and white wine as well. You can access the original recipe here and see mine below with the changes. We really liked this soup. It had a nice, hearty consistency and a great overall flavor. I served it with, no surprise here, a grilled cheese. But not just any grilled cheese, this was a gourmet panini version stuffed with fresh buffalo mozzarella, bacon and tomato. The buffalo mozzeralla is so buttery and gooey when it's warm and made a great base for grilled cheese. Now that fall is here, I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to summer and hello to cooler temperatures with this "last of the tomato harvest" treat. Enjoy!
Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup
12-14 tomatoes, halved, seeds squeezed out
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for drizzling over tomatoes
3 slices of bacon, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups water
1/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup heavy cream
a handful of shredded fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Place your halved tomatoes on a foil-lined baking pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set in the oven to roast until softened, about 30 minutes.
While your tomatoes roast, saute the bacon, garlic and onions in the olive oil until softened and the bacon has browned slightly.
Add your rice and toss with juices and grease from onions and bacon. Saute another 3 to 5 minutes and then add your 1/2 cup of white wine. Allow the mixture to thicken slightly and then add the roasted tomatoes (you can remove the tomato skins before adding them if you'd like - they should remove quite easily after being roasted) along with any juices that released while cooking them, the sugar, and red pepper flakes. Pour in your two cups of water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Finally, using an immersion blender, puree your soup. Alternatively, you can place it in small batches into a blender and puree. Just don't put too much hot soup in at one time because it will expand and blow the top off your blender if you are not careful.
Once it is pureed, stir in your shredded basil. Ladle hot soup into bowls and serve with some crusty bread or hot sandwiches.