I remember a bowl of tomato soup I had once, in a little square called San Barnaba off the beaten path in Venice. I was cold, tired, and my life had just shattered. I suppose there is no better place to be heartbroken than in Venice. Every meal I had there, every bowlful of goodness, restored me just a little bit. The soup I had that day was served with a hunk of toasted crusty bread in the middle, soaking in the flavorful tomatoes and covered in a blanket of shaved parmesan cheese. By the time I got to the bottom of the bowl, the last morsels of bread had softened and thickened the soup like a rustic tomato-bread soup. Here I’ve tried to re-create that San Barnaba soup. I’ve used many tomato soup recipes that call for sugar, and I usually either omit it or feel guilty for adding it and spoiling the simplicity of the tomatoes. I found a substitute that even brightens the color and flavor of the soup and is 100 % guilt-free: beet juice. Of course, feel free to use the sweetener of your choice.
Secret Ingredient Tomato Soup
(Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Creamy Tomato Soup)
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 10 sprigs thyme, tied together
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes
- 1 cup beet juice
- ¼ cup (or more) heavy cream
- (optional) a dollop of crème fraîche
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic. Cook until onion is completely soft and translucent, 10–12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often, until paste has begun to caramelize in spots, 5–6 minutes.
Add tomatoes with juices, 6 cups water and 1 cup beet juice to pot. Increase heat to high; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until flavors meld and soup reduces to about 2 quarts (8 cups), 45–55 minutes. Remove soup from heat; let cool slightly. Discard thyme sprigs. Working in small batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth. Return to pot. DO AHEAD: Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly, cover, and chill. Rewarm before continuing.
Stir in ¼ cup cream. Simmer soup until flavors meld, 10–15 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 tsp. sugar. Add more cream and/or crème fraîche if desired.
Serve with hunks of crusty bread and shaved parmesan cheese, or a grilled cheese sandwich. For a fancy one, try a Cheddar, Chive & Ciabatta Panino.
December 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm
Oh Laura! It’s amazing how we link food to our emotions and remember what we had to comfort us. Lovely recipe and stunning picture x
December 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm
Thanks, Dimple. Yes, I think food really nourishes us and comforts us, body & spirit. It IS amazing how the memory connects emotions to food, isn’t it?
December 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm
YUM! Going to try this tomorrow…
December 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm
Great! I just saw your report – glad it was a hit!
December 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm
The soup is wonderful and it’s brilliant to use the beet juice as a sweetener. I love that this soup can trigger a bittersweet memory and re creating it has to be cathartic. This sounds like a delicious recipe.
December 5, 2013 at 9:31 pm
Thanks, I like it because the tomatoes sing here; there’s nothing – not even broth – to detract from their flavor. So simple!
December 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm
Beautiful photographs! I love a good tomato soup and never use sugar…tomatoes love acid so I always slosh in some red or white wine vinegar with mine but I’ll have to try beet juice!
December 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm
Aw, thanks! And I’m so happy I discovered your lovely blog this week! I like your idea of some wine or vinegar too – sounds like a great way to complement the sweetness of the tomatoes.
December 5, 2013 at 1:01 am
December 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm
December 5, 2013 at 5:10 am
This recipe is very simple and easy! Thank you!
December 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm
Right? I adore simple and rustic recipes that just let the ingredients shine without too much fuss 🙂
December 5, 2013 at 7:36 pm
I made this for dinner tonight. It was so good. Hubby and both girls ate it, which is saying something! Thanks so much!
December 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm
Yay! Thanks so much for trying it out and letting me know it was a success. I love it when that happens 🙂
December 5, 2013 at 7:42 pm
Looks like a wonderful soup! Beautifully photographed too.
December 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm
Thanks – simple but comforting (to cook and to eat!). Glad you like the photos – I’m trying out new angles 😉
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December 8, 2013 at 4:29 am
Simple and rustic. I love it. Thank you!