Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

The best tomato basil soup I ever had in my life is at my college. I went to Penn State University in Erie. They used to serve Tomato Basil Soup with cheese ravioli in it on every Wednesday. Since then I have tried to replicate that soup many times, using many different recipes, but with not much success. Yesterday, I just made the soup out of jiffy, and surprisingly it turned out delicious.

I had a lot of basil leaves left from making stuffed pasta shells over the weekend, so I decided to try again one last time, to make tomato basil soup. And I am glad that I tried because the soup turned out so good that I couldn’t stop eating it even though I wasn’t very hungry.

Instead of using heavy cream, I used ricotta cheese in my soup because that is what I had available at home. I also didn’t buy any fancy croutons, but instead made some at home from whole wheat bread slices. I also had some carrots in the fridge, so I used one in the soup.

Here is the recipe for making Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

For the Soup
6-7 Juicy Tomatoes (I Used Roma Tomatoes),
1 Medium Carrot,
3 Big Cloves of Garlic,
1/4th Cup Olive Oil,
6-7 Black Pepper Corns,
½ Cup Water,
Salt to Taste,
10 Big Italian Basil Leaves, Washed and Patted Dry
2 Teaspoon Ricotta Cheese,
A little less than 1/4th Cup Milk,
½ Teaspoon White Pepper Powder, or Per Taste
A Pinch of Saffron Strands, Optional (It gives good color),
1 Teaspoon Sugar

For Croutons
2 Slices of Bread Your Choice (I Used Whole Wheat)
2 Teaspoon Olive Oil,
1/8th Teaspoon Italian Seasoning


For the Croutons:
Place one slice of bread on top of the other. Make vertical and horizontal cuts at 1 inch intervals on both breads at a time so that the pieces are of the same size. Lay these pieces in a single layer on a baking dish. Sprinkle 2 Teaspoon olive oil and Italian seasoning on the bread pieces.

For the Soup:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the tomatoes in half length wise. Cut the carrot in big pieces. Add the tomatoes, carrots, garlic, olive oil and black pepper corns in a deep baking dish and cover with an aluminum foil. Puncture the foil at 4-5 locations with the help of a knife. Keep aside.

When the oven heats up to 375 degrees F, place the deep dish with veggies on the center rack and the bread slices on the bottom rack of the oven. After 15 minutes, check the bread once. It should have hardened up into croutons. Take them out. If the bread pieces haven’t hardened up, cook them a little longer. Cook the veggies for 15 more minutes (30 minutes in total from the start time) so that the tomatoes get soft. Take out the veggies, remove the foil and add ½ cup cold water to aid in cooling.

While the veggies are getting cooled, take 3 basil leaves, lay them on top of each other and roll them up. Cut into thin pieces. Separate the cut pieces. Now you have thinly sliced basil ribbons for garnishing!! 

Mix the ricotta cheese and milk in a blender and blend into smooth paste. Once the veggies cool down, add the remaining (uncut) basil leaves, sugar and the cheese paste to the veggies and blend it to make smooth puree.

The following step is optional. Take out 4-5 croutons which are cut from the sides of the bread. Add these croutons to the veggies while making puree. The addition of croutons gave the soup a good texture, and thick consistency. You can opt out from adding croutons to the veggies if you like your soup to have very smooth texture.

Transfer the puree to a cooking pot and add the saffron strands, salt and white pepper powder to it. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Take off the stove and serve hot garnished with croutons, chopped basil ribbons and some olive oil.

Note: Do not overcook the soup otherwise the basil will loose its flavor.

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