There are barely any tomatoes at the farmers market near me these days. Summer’s over. In-season tomatoes are the best, so it’s a bummer I’ll have to wait another trip around the sun before they come back for sandwiches, pasta sauce, and salads.
But that’s OK! Because each year, the moment the temperature dips, I make Ina Garten’s easy tomato soup. First published in her 2012 cookbook, Foolproof, it calls for canned tomatoes.
You would think that using canned tomatoes for a soup that only cooks for 20-ish minutes would wind up tasting thin, acidic, and tin-like. This soup doesn’t. True to Ina fashion, this is a delicious soup that’s easy to make and calls for pantry staples. For 10 years, it’s been my family’s favorite way to jump from one season to the next.
How I Make Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup
Cook 2 chopped onions with olive oil in a large Dutch oven until they’re translucent and golden around the edges. Stir in 3 minced garlic cloves and cook for about a minute. Add 4 cups of chicken stock, a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, a tablespoon of kosher salt (see note below about salt), and a teaspoon of black pepper. Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes.
Ina calls for a large pinch of saffron threads, which I’m sure is so good. But this isn’t an ingredient I often have. Plus, they’re quite expensive, so I don’t use it.
Here’s one more thing I do differently because it saves me from having to wash a second pot. Ina boils 1/2 cup of orzo in a separate pot, drains, and adds it to the soup. I cook the orzo directly in the soup with an additional 1/2 cup of water (since the pasta absorbs some of the liquid). The orzo releases some starches, thickening the soup a bit. It’s a win-win.
It takes about 10 minutes for the orzo to cook through. Make sure to continue stirring so that they don’t get stuck to the bottom of the pot. Halfway through, add half a cup of heavy cream. Serve warm with a grilled cheese sandwich cut into cubes à la croutons. My family loves this soup so much—we never ever have leftovers.
Make It a Smooth, Creamy Soup
Ina’s soup is chunky—you can see and feel the chopped onions and crushed tomatoes. For reasons I try not to think too hard about, my kids refuse to eat chunky soups. Like my kids, if you prefer it smooth, here are two things you can do:
Use an immersion blender: The first option is to turn off the stove and use an immersion blender to carefully blend the soup right inside the pot. Make sure the head with the blade stays fully immersed in the soup the whole time so that you don’t scald yourself with flying hot soup.
Use a high-speed blender: The second option is to carefully transfer the soup into a blender to make it smooth.
Regardless of the method you use, blend the soup before you add the orzo. Otherwise, you’ll blend the pasta and end up with a gummy, gloppy soup.
A Note About Salt
The first time I made Ina’s tomato soup it turned out very salty because I used salted store-bought chicken broth, salted canned tomatoes, and the full tablespoon of kosher salt the recipe calls for. Now I don’t add any salt and think it’s perfectly seasoned.
Take note of your ingredients—homemade unsalted chicken stock and unsalted canned tomatoes will need salt. The easiest way to avoid over-salting the soup is to taste it as you go. I would recommend starting with 1 teaspoon of salt and tasting it before adding more.
If your soup does end up too salty, adding more water won’t fix it. It may taste less salty, but the soup will be runny and it will taste off. Instead, add a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar. It’ll tame the saltiness.