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- 3 pounds fresh garden tomatoes, see note (or if using cans, two 28 ounce cans plum tomatoes, diced with juice)
- ½ cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 cup peeled and diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
- 2 large sprigs thyme left whole
- 2 large stalks Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems left on and left whole
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 5.5 ounce cans tomato juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup heavy cream, optional
- Your favorite grilled cheese sandwich, cut into sticks for serving, also optional
- If using fresh tomatoes: The skins of plum tomatoes cook down enough in this soup so that you don’t need to peel them but you do need to remove the seeds as they will make the soup bitter. The easiest method is to have two bowls, one with a strainer. If you are using plum tomatoes, nip off the end and cut in half lengthwise. Then with your thumb or index finger, scrape the seeds from each half into the bowl with the strainer. If cutting larger round tomatoes, cut out core and cut them horizontally. Then over the bowl with the strainer, reach up and scrape out all the seeds. Throw the cleaned tomatoes into the bowl without the strainer. Finally move the seeds around the strainer to get out any last bit of juice and discard seeds. Take the liquid left in the bowl and add to the tomato halves. With three pounds of tomatoes, you should end up with a little over 2 pounds of cut up tomatoes (weighed on a scale). This is equal to about six to eight cups (a little more or less is fine).
- In a medium to large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, add olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Cook over medium high for five minutes. Add tomato halves with juice (or canned).
- Add half of the fresh cut up basil. Tie whole thyme and whole parsley together with twine and place in pot.
- Add broth, tomato juice, sugar, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes.
- Remove and discard bay leaves, thyme and parsley.
- Add second half of basil to the soup. Stir in pepper flakes and butter. With an immersion blender, blend soup until completely pureed.
- At this point, if you like it very thick, add the remaining two tablespoons of tomato paste and cook for another few minutes. If you like it thinner, omit the last two tablespoons.
- Also adding cream is optional as a personal preference. We left it out.
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