A few days ago, my wife came home from Costo bearing tomato-basil soup. It wasn't bad, but I knew I could do better. Digging in my files, I found this recipe that I got from Tra Vigne restaurant in the Napa Valley. Tra Vigne was founded by the now-famous chef Michael Chiarello. I don't know if he personally invented this recipe, but it is very good and takes less than an hour to make.
If you look up tomato basil soup online, you will find dozens of recipes. Most of them call for fresh tomatoes or a combination of fresh and canned, but this recipe uses canned tomatoes exclusively, and, in my opinion, is the better for it. Extra flavor is provided by roasting the tomatoes. This means you have to dirty an extra pan, but I think it is worth it.
This recipe will serve four as a first course, but can easily be expanded to serve a large crowd.
1 14-oz Can of Tomatoes, preferably Italian D.O.P.
1/4 Cup EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Stalk Celery, diced
1 Carrot, diced
1 Small Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Bay leaf
2 Tbs Butter
1/4 Cup chopped basil
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream (optional)
Soutr cream for garnish (optional)
Garlic croutons (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 450°. Strain the tomatoes, reserving the juice and chop them. Spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and drizzle EVOO over them. Roast them until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté the celery, carrot, onion and garlic in the EVOO in a pot until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes, the reserved tomato juice, the chicken stock, bay leaf and butter. Simmer 15 minutes and add the basil and the optional cream. Remove the bay leaf and purée the soup with an immersion blender or in a standard blender. Adjust seasoning. Serve at once, optionally garnished with a dollop of sour cream, a basil leaf and croutons. Can be reheated or served chilled.