Putting the word “easy” right in the recipe title is a little risky, in my opinion. Everyone’s idea of easy varies, especially when it comes to cooking. This recipe might have a few too many steps to qualify as easy for some, but it doesn’t all come from a can, and you can make it on a weeknight fairly easily considering that. You can hold me accountable if you don’t find it that easy, but I’m almost certain you will.
Let’s put it this way – this tastes mucho better than tomato soup from a can. The addition of the orzo, small rice-shaped pasta, is really nice and helps to thicken the texture a bit. And while you’re thinking, why not just enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich alongside this mo fo, I loved the bits of grilled cheese sandwich already in the soup.
It’s a little amazing that all you need for the tomato portion of this is a can of crushed tomatoes. If you can’t get the ones called for, buy the whole peeled variety and just mash them a little with a potato masher.
Use lots of yummy fresh garlic and onions. They’re absolutely essential in this.
The original recipe calls for saffron to take this simple yet tasty soup to the next level. If, like me, you couldn’t actually get any locally, substitute your favorite herb. I used thyme, my go-to favorite. I like to add it in with the garlic.
There’s the orzo. The recipe calls for half a cup, and while this seems stingy, trust me, it’s enough. Orzo is one of those pastas that looks stingy going into a pot of water to cook, but it comes out grown into loads of yum-ness. An entire box would feed an entire family. In this soup, you only need a little to do the job.
While the soup’s in its Doing Its Thing stage, go ahead and prep your sandwiches. We used the Gruyere called for, but you can really use any cheese you want to that melts well. Heck, good ‘ole Kraft American would be great, too. Gruyere is divine, but it can be a little expensive. If your store carries Boar’s Head brand in the deli area, that one’s not too bad a price.
You knew this was coming, right? I’m sorry, it’s just…we had to. Half a cup of heavy cream really seals this as a fantastic soup. I promise, it’s worth it. Imagine all the yum.
You’ve grilled or panini-pressed those sanwiches, right? Good – now cut them into little squares. Just try it. It’s going to be fantastic biting into bread soaking up all that perfectly simmered tomato goodness, then the melding of the cheese with it. Uhmahgaaawwwd.
The soup itself in nice and smooth, but there’s a pleasant bite thanks to a few chunks of tomato, the onion and, of course, those grilled cheese croutons. Serve it up with a salad and you’re set for a perfect evening of chilly weather and stomach-pleasing goodness. Enjoy!
Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
from Ina Garten and Food Network Magazine, October 2012
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes Level: easy Serves: 4-6
For the soup:
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- Large pinch of saffron threads (or your favorite herb, chopped)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
For the croutons:
- 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (or your favorite kind)
To make the soup:
In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.
To make the croutons:
Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.
We don’t have a panini press, so I used our George Foreman two-portion grill. Thanks, George! One of the best kitchen tools we’ve ever had.
You may have also noticed I didn’t use melted butter to brush onto the bread. I just got out the Country Crock instead and lightly smeared it on. Steps, I can cut them. Do whichever works for you.
This soup will thicken even more as it stands, so if you like a thicker soup, let it rest for a little while before serving. If it needs a little reheating, turn your burner back on low and stir every so often to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick.