After a summer full of sweet local tomatoes, winter can look bleak. But canned tomatoes are a sunny opportunity to enjoy that robust tomato flavor year-round. Those cans can be coaxed into something pretty close to summer’s bounty – all they need is a little TLC.
Tomato soup is one of the first things I crave once the cool weather starts sinking into my bones. While a can of whole tomatoes tossed in a pot, simmered with aromatics, and blended can satisfy, I find it lacks rich flavor. Luckily, there’s a solution that makes a better fall and winter tomato soup possible: roasting the tomatoes.
Remove the whole tomatoes, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, toss garlic cloves and fresh herbs on top for good measure, drizzle everything with olive oil, and roast until the mess is caramelized and the tomatoes are jammy. This little trick concentrates whatever sweetness is hiding inside these preserved tomatoes, bringing them as close to summer’s bounty as you can get without traveling back in time.
Simmer them in a pot with the usual soup suspects, blend, and serve alongside a crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside grilled cheese.
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Roasted Tomato Soup
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained
6 cloves garlic, peeled
8 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium vegetable broth
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the whole tomatoes from the cans (reserving the juice), cut them in half if large, and lay them out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Scatter the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes (if using). Roast until soft and caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and saute until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and saute until the paste has deepened in color, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
When the tomatoes are ready, discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic cloves to the pot; add reserved tomato juice and vegetable broth. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover the pot, and simmer 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in batches in a stand blender or in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to five days, or freeze for up to three months.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.