February 17, 2014

Cream of Tomato Soup: A Childhood Memory

When I was in elementary school, I went home for lunch every day. My mother would serve Campbell's Cream of Tomato soup to my sister and me often, and I loved it: the color, the taste, the consistency. Of course, now I wouldn't dream of opening a can of soup, but happily, cream of tomato soup is quite easy to make, and even more delicious with my own canned tomatoes from last summer's garden, and herbs. I found an excellent recipe in Deborah Madison's great cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and thought I'd share it for those of you who also might have fond memories of Campbell's soup.

2 1/2 Tbs butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped (I didn't have any celery, but did have some lovage leaves that I'd frozen last fall, so used about 1/4 cup of those, which turned out to be too much; I should have used 1-2 Tbs because it's strong tasting.....but good)
1 1/2 teas dried basil, crumbled (I used about 2 Tbs of basil mixed with olive oil, that I prepare in small packets during the summer)
pinch of ground cloves
2 Tbs flour
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes in puree (I used a quart of home-canned tomatoes)
pinch of baking soda (I have no idea of the purpose of this)
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper
tomato paste, if needed

  1. Melt the butter in a soup pot and add onion, celery, basil, and cloves; cook, stirring, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour, then add tomatoes, baking soda, and stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
  3. Let cool briefly, then puree in blender or food processor, or use an emersion blender.
  4. Return soup to pot, then add milk and salt. If too thick, add more milk or water. If soup isn't tomato-y enough, add some tomato paste. 
  5. Reheat and serve, grinding pepper into each bowl.

Enjoy this soup, lovely for a winter lunch.


  1. My guess on the baking soda is that it reduces the acidity of the tomatoes, making it less likely that the soup will curdle when the milk is added.