I used to come home for lunch when I was in grade school. I couldn’t wait to get in the door and discover what my mom had made for lunch. Sometimes it was a sandwich, but most of the time it was something hot and that hot item was often soup. Tomato was one of my favorites. My mother always used Campbell’s, but made it her own by adding milk instead of water. It changed the color from rose to salmon and it tasted wonderful. Every once in a while she’d stir in some leftover rice and the bowl of goodness became even more comforting. Back then the Grilled Cheese Sandwich of choice was made with Velveeta. Steaming hot tomato soup and a gooey grilled “cheese” sandwich made coming home for lunch extra special. (Disclaimer: Remember, this was the 1950’s. The world of convenience food was in its prime and my mother being a modern, forward thinking woman, embraced it.)
That was then and this is now, as the saying goes. I now know that making homemade tomato soup is super easy. It just takes tomatoes. either fresh or canned and whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand to sweeten the deal. The time for fresh tomatoes has passed, so this soup started with a large can of tomatoes. These weren’t your basic tomatoes, no sir. These were the veritable Cadillac of tomatoes. These were San Marzano.
These heirloom tomatoes originated in a town near Naples were they grew in the rich volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius. To be authentic they have to grow in that area. This easily makes a can of them twice the price of the domestic variety, but it is so worth it. The San Marzano is sweet and rich and has low acidity. All of these factors make it a perfect choice for soup.
Mama D’s Trinity (onions, garlic, and olive oil) was the foundation. The trio became a quartet when I added a good dose of Red Pepper Flakes. Besides the tomatoes I decided to continue the Italian theme by adding some Toasted Farro and Cannellini Beans. Both of these have made appearances here before. Farro actually comes from Italy and the beans’ ancestors came over on the boat, too.
The Trinity sweat with the pepper flakes before the tomatoes went into the pot along with some Chicken Broth. I would have used Vegetable stock, but I didn’t have it on hand. Either one will do the trick. I decided to keep the Italian vibe going and added a bit of Marsala Wine, I let this all simmer together for twenty minutes or so before I took a potato masher to it. This gave it a rustic chunky texture that I found quite enjoyable, but you could use an immersion blender if you want your soup base to be silky smooth.
The cooked farro and the drained beans went in next along with some generous grinds of my McCormick Italian Herb Blend. I let things bubble away a bit more before, in a nod to my Mom, I added some half and half. The soup was delightful. Just rich enough to be satisfying, but light enough to be guilt free.What’s tomato Soup without Grilled Cheese? Incomplete. My version was more cheese toast than sandwich and featured shredded Asiago. If I’d had a baguette on hand, I would have definitely used it, but I didn’t so some Italian Bread stepped in. Use whatever cheese you love or have on hand. Just goes to show that anything that works for you, works.
Soup season is upon us and there will be more soup adventures as Fall settles into Winter. There is nothing quite like a bowl of warm comforting soup in the Kitchen of Love.