This is the perfect winter soup, especially when you're busy because it doesn't have a lot of ingredients or take all day to cook. Best Tomato Bisque is comfort in a bowl and a great partner to Parmesan Crusted Grilled Cheese, a great salad or my Parmesan Crisps.
A love affair with tomato bisque
Growing up, I never loved tomato soup. Maybe because I didn't know that you were supposed to eat it with grilled cheese. Maybe because the canned stuff was the color of a certain canned round spaghetti that wasn't allowed to be put into our grocery cart much less cross the threshold of our house. Dramatic? Yes. But 100% true. Back to tomato soup. It wasn't until I went to a friend's house in a former life before marriage and kids that I had this tomato soup that transformed everything I thought I knew about tomato soup. Fast forward a bit to my newlywed days when we'd get lost wandering around Nordstrom's and make our way to the 3rd floor just to have the tomato soup. If you love that soup, this one could be its cousin.
What is bisque?
I keep calling it tomato soup but really, this is a bisque despite not being made with seafood. The word bisque historically was designated for soups made from seafood but it has evolved over time to include vegetable based cream soups. Call it what you want but this "bisque" has little nuggets of onion that had a taste of something my young palate couldn't quite make out that I later learned (once given the recipe) had to do with the wine in it. The wine is THE secret ingredient and takes this soup to the next level. That and the fresh basil. Please, please, please...try to use fresh basil. You won't regret it.
A gluten-free bread for soup
One of the best things about this soup is that it's easy and it's fast. I used to buy bread bowls to serve it in which my kiddos loved. Now with everyone being a little more carb-conscious, I came up with these little Parmesan Crisps as an alternative.
If you're not eating dairy, then go for a carb. Or just eat the soup as is. You too will be happy.
The trick with the crisps is a rolling pin, a handle of a wooden spoon - anything that has a curved edge. You can even use a small ramekins to make a little rounded cup you can rest on the top. Don't be intimidated as these are super easy to make buts guests will love them and you for making them!
Real San Marzano Tomatoes?
Ok - to the soup. Use the best-canned WHOLE tomatoes you can find. My photo here features Cento tomatoes, an authentic San Marzano tomato I really like. San Marzano tomatoes are grown in a very small area in Northern Italy on small plots of land.
- San Marzano tomatoes are always whole (and peeled).When tomatoes are crushed or pureed, you lose control and possibly some taste and likely are not San Marzano.
- The word "certified" will be on the side of the can along with a Consorzio seal and number. Cento labels their tomatoes with this along with the date and growing location. Talk about legit!
Making Tomato Bisque
First, this recipe can be doubled easily. More than that gets a little tricky so I suggest just doubling it. I have quadrupled it but felt some of the taste was sacrificed. Let me know if you try it and have any suggestions.
- Saute the chopped onions in the butter until they are translucent and then add the garlic just until the scent releases - about 30 seconds. Making the soup in a 5-6 quart dutch oven or large saucepan works best as it gives you a wider surface for the onions to cook.
Carefully, pour in the wine and let the onions and wine come together for about 3 -5 minutes until the alcohol burns off.
All About the Texture
- For the tomatoes, I prefer to use whole tomatoes that I first puree in the blender. I like the soup on the chunkier side but you can make it smoother if you prefer.
- Next, add the salt and pepper. Taste for the seasoning - sometimes I add a little bit of sugar if the tomatoes need it. Just make sure to always taste your food as your cooking. You'll know when it's right for you and your family.
- Cook the soup to marry the flavors. If you are making the soup in advance, which you totally can, stop at this point, let it cool and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. You also can blend the soup at this point for a smoother texture if you prefer.
Before serving, add the cream to the soup and correct the seasoning once more. Typically, I use half and half as I find whipping cream too heavy and don't want all the calories. At the last minute, add the basil and be sure to crown each bowl with a Parmesan Crisp. Or just eat the Parmesan Crisp between slurps of soup. I won't judge.
For a few: Make the recipe as is and serve in bread bowls or with a salad for a cozy dinner.
For a crowd: Doubles easily. Serve as shooters for an appetizer and top with mini Parmesan Crisp or garnished with a little crispy prosciutto and some extra chopped basil.
- 1 cup white onion , chopped finely
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup white wine, cheap is good!
- 1-2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 28 oz can whole Italian tomatoes, San Marzano preferred
- 1 cup half and half, can use whipping cream
- 1 ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- In a 3-5 quart dutch oven, saute onion in butter on medium until translucent for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds until you can smell it.
- Add the white wine and cook until the wine has reduced in half, about 3-5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, puree tomatoes to desired consistency or if using, tomato puree skip this step.
- Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to wine mixture and cook for 15 minutes. Can be made to this point and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
- If bringing from the refrigerator, heat until warm and slowly add the cream, stirring as you add it. Once completely heated, correct for seasoning and stir in the basil right before serving.
You can blend the soup in a blender after cooking (but before adding the cream and basil) for a smoother soup. Just remember when you put anything hot in the blender to remove the smaller cap and place a dishtowel over the lid covering the hole to avoid any splattering. That way the heat is released through the towel and you won't burn yourself.
- 1 package Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggi shredded cheese, or any combo of Parmesan, romano or any hard shredded cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a tablespoon, lightly and evenly sprinkle cheese in a 3” circle on the parchment paper. You should get 3 circles across.
- Make sure the cheese isn’t piled or clumped together but loosely spread. It’s ok if there are small holes.
- Once you have filled up the cookie sheet, bake the crisps for 5 minutes checking at around the 3 minute mark. You want the edges to be a golden brown.
- Cool for about 1 minute and while they’re cooling, get a butter knife or long metal icing spatula and a rolling pin.
- One at at time, gently slide the knife or spatula under the crisp and lift it off the parchment paper and lay it over the rolling pin so that it bends to the shape of the rolling pin. (My rolling pin is approximately 2” in diameter so if yours is bigger, make your crisps bigger.)
- Let the crisps set for a minute or so and remove to a cooling rack until they harden. Repeat with all the crisps. You can line your rolling pin with a few at a time.