My first taste of tomato soup was from a can, and to say that I was unimpressed would be a monumental understatement. The bland flavor and homogenous, runny texture certainly wasn’t for me. As I got older, I learned that tomato soup doesn’t have to be this way. My version uses fresh tomatoes and garlic, leafy green basil, a touch of vodka (optional), a few simple seasonings and my favorite ingredient in the world – heavy cream.
Oh, and this tomato basil soup is topped with toasted sweet-bread croutons and freshly shredded parmesan cheese. The croutons have a delicate texture that holds up surprisingly well with the soup, a sweet taste and subtle hint of saltiness. They are utterly delicious, and the perfect complement to creamy tomato basil soup!
What is Portuguese sweet-bread?
Portuguese sweet bread (also known as massa sovada or pão doce) is an airy, sweet bread – very similar in taste and texture to Challah bread or brioche. It’s commonly sold in rolls, although bigger loaves also exist.
Portuguese sweet rolls are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast with a cup of hot tea and lots of butter. I’m not quite sure what moved me to use Portuguese sweet-rolls as croutons, but the idea popped into my head one day and it worked!
Ingredients for this creamy tomato basil soup recipe:
- 3 pounds of fresh tomatoes: Campari tomatoes are one of my favorites because of their sweet flavor and non-mealy texture. If you can’t find Campari tomatoes, Roma or vine-ripened tomatoes also work well.
- 6-ounce can of tomato paste
- Aromatics: 2 heads of fresh garlic and 1 medium-sized onion
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling the tomatoes and garlic
- 6 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons of vodka (optional) for that delicious vodka-sauce flavor
- The leafiest basil you can find-look for dark green leaves
- Seasonings: kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping
- 3 Portuguese sweet rolls to make the most delicious croutons!
How to make this creamy roasted tomato basil soup recipe
1. Roast the tomatoes and garlic
Rinse and cut the tomatoes in half and arrange them on 2 large foil-lined baking sheets. Try to keep the tomatoes slightly spaced apart to allow some room for the juices to run off while roasting. Drizzle the tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with a few pinches of salt and some fresh-cracked black pepper.
Prepare the garlic for roasting by leaving the entire heads of garlic in their casings, and cutting the top of each head off. Drizzle the exposed parts with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil each. Wrap each head in foil and make room for them on each baking sheet.
Roast the tomatoes and garlic at 425°F for 30-40 minutes. The tomatoes will become slightly charred around the edges and the juices will pool around each tomato. The garlic will become soft and golden in color and the cloves may start to rise out of their casings.
2. Puree the tomatoes and garlic
Remove each of the roasted garlic cloves from their casings and transfer them with the tomatoes to a food processor. Cover the food processor bowl and puree on high speed for 1 full minute. Set aside.
3. Prepare the soup
In a soup pot or dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of the cubed butter over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and cook them until they’re soft and translucent. Add the tomato paste, garlic powder and onion powder and cook for about 1 minute. Stir every few seconds while the tomato paste cooks.
If you’re using vodka, add it now and let the alcohol cook off (this takes about 1-2 minutes). Now add the pureed tomatoes and garlic, chicken broth, sugar and heavy cream. Give the pot a stir, and bring to a simmer.
Once the pot starts to simmer, lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer over a very low flame for 25-30 minutes. You can stir the pot occasionally.
4. Prepare the sweet-bread croutons
While the soup simmers, adjust your oven temperature to 350°F. Split the sweet-bread rolls horizontally and cut each half into three-quarter inch sized cubes. Transfer the bread cubes to a large, clean baking sheet and spread them out in an even layer. Drizzle the bread cubes with extra virgin olive oil (go easy as sweet-bread can become saturated if you’re not careful!) and sprinkle them with a few pinches of kosher salt and pepper.
Bake the croutons in the oven until they’re golden brown (10-15 minutes) and then remove them from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet.
5. Add the remaining ingredients to the soup
Give the basil a rough chop and set it aside. Once the soup has simmered for a full 25 minutes, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of cold butter and stir until fully melted. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Stir in the fresh basil, cover the pot again and let the soup simmer for just 5 minutes more. Turn the flame off and let the soup sit for an additional 5-10 minutes.
6. Garnish and serve!
Give the soup a final stir, and ladle it into bowls. Garnish each bowl of soup with a few sweet-bread croutons, a sprinkle of finely-shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and some fresh-cracked black pepper.
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup with Sweet-Bread Croutons
Roasted tomatoes and garlic:
- 3 pounds tomatoes Campari, vine-ripened or Roma tomatoes work best
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra-virgin, for drizzling
- 2 heads of garlic whole
- a few pinches of kosher salt
Tomato basil soup:
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cold, cut into cubes
- 6 ounces tomato paste 1 can
- 2 tablespoons vodka optional
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 3 cups chicken broth
- lots of fresh leafy basil chopped
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese finely-shredded, for garnish
Portuguese sweet-bread croutons
- 3 Portuguese sweet-rolls
- drizzle olive oil extra-virgin
- pinch kosher salt and black pepper
Roast the tomatoes and garlic
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Keep the heads of garlic in-tact by not breaking the cloves apart. Cut the top off of each head of garlic and drizzle the exposed cloves with 1 teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil per head. Wrap each head in foil and set aside.
- Rinse and halve each tomato. Arrange the tomatoes on 2 large foil-lined baking sheets. Keep a little bit of space between each tomato to allow the juices to run off. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and a few pinches of kosher salt. Make room on the baking sheets for each head of garlic.
- Roast the tomatoes and garlic in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
- Remove each baking sheet from the oven and let cool slightly. The tomatoes will look slightly charred around the edges and liquid will pool around each tomato.
- Unwrap each garlic head from the foil and remove the garlic cloves from their casings. The garlic should be soft.
- Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a food processor. Cover the food processor bowl with a lid and puree for 1 full minute. Set aside.
- Prepare the roasted tomato basil soup
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onions and saute them until they become soft and translucent.
- Add the tomato paste, onion powder and garlic powder and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring every few seconds.
- Add the vodka and let the alcohol cook off (this takes about 1-2 minutes).
- Add the tomato/garlic puree, heavy cream, chicken broth, and sugar. Stir and cover the pot.
- Let the soup simmer over a low flame for 25-30 minutes. You can lift the lid to stir the soup every 10 minutes or so. While the soup simmers, prepare the croutons.
Prepare the Portuguese sweet-bread croutons
- Adjust the oven temperature to 350°F.
- Halve each sweet-roll horizontally and cut into ¾-inch cubes.
- Place the bread cubes on a large (clean and dry) baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.
- Lightly drizzle the bread cubes with olive oil and a pinch or 2 of salt and pepper.
- Bake the croutons at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, until they reach a golden-brown color.
Add the finishing touches to the soup
- After the soup has simmered for 20-25 minutes, taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Chop the basil and add it to the pot with the 3 remaining cubes of cold butter. Stir and cover the pot, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Turn the flame off and let the pot sit covered for 5-10 minutes.
- Give the pot of soup one final stir and ladle the soup into bowls. Top each bowl of soup with a few sweet bread croutons, a sprinkle of finely-shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and fresh black pepper.