In the years after World War II, tomato soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches became a popular school cafeteria menu combination that carried over into home kitchens everywhere. Here's the most plausible explanation I've found for why this happened: institutional food service (including school cafeterias) paired grilled cheese with tomato soup to meet the minimum school lunch requirements for sufficient Vitamin C (from the tomatoes) and protein (from the cheese). As canned soups became more available and economical, and processed cheese extended its shelf life, soup and sandwiches were a practical choice for many school systems. Today there's only one reason we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup -- because it's still the best comfort food combination around. Of course, you can fancy up the cheese and bread in your sandwich, but at the end of the day, nothing beats a basic creamy tomato soup. When it's this easy to make soup from scratch, there's no reason to default to canned soup. By the way, both of my grandsons are dunkers, just as my school friends and I used to be, and this soup makes for great dunking of melty grilled cheese sandwiches.
Quick and easy creamy tomato soup
From the pantry, you'll need: canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, fresh black pepper.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 28-oz boxes or cans chopped tomatoes (I like Pomi)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water or vegetable broth
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup half-and-half (don't use nonfat, which contains sugar)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat the olive oil over low heat. Stir in the onion, and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.
Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste and water or broth. Increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Uncover the pot, and stir in the basil and half-and-half. Cook for a minute or so, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed (you will need both).
Give your soup a once-over with an immersion blender, or carefully transfer the soup to a standing blender and pureé until smooth.
Serve hot, with a grilled cheese sandwich for dunking. Or, let cool completely, and refrigerate or freeze.
More tomato soup ideas:
Tomato, zucchini, white bean and basil soup, from The Perfect Pantry
Slow cooker tomato herb soup, from Soup Chick
Tomato artichoke soup, from A Couple Cooks
Tomato and bread soup (pappa al pomodoro), from Simply Recipes
"Creamy" sundried tomato soup, from Love and Lemons
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