Turns out, planting cooking tomatoes wasn't a mistake

  • Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup.

      Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup. M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

Posted9/9/2020 6:00 AM

I accidentally planted San Marzano tomatoes this year.

For all you gardeners out there, I know that sounds pretty dumb, but I'm a townhouse dweller with limited experience beyond growing herbs and flowers on my deck. When I decided to try my hand at gardening this summer, I planted a couple of tomato plants that a friend gave me.


Turns out they were San Marzanos, which are great for cooking -- but not so great for eating raw.

Growers of these tomatoes -- like my friend -- like to make big batches of sauce they freeze and then use all winter for pasta, pizza and soup. That's because when you cook San Marzanos down, they magically transform into a taste that is the perfect balance between sweet and acidic. They are the superstars of Italian cooking, which is why they generally cost more when you buy them fresh or canned.

I decided to roast my small harvest with garlic, add fresh basil and make a soup. Full disclosure: The tomatoes almost didn't make it into the soup. Once you roast these, they are addictive!

In any case, feel free to use canned San Marzanos this recipe. You can also put the tomatoes through a food mill, if you don't want the skins and seeds in the mixture. I used my high-powered blender and it worked just fine.

Add broth to create the thickness you like. The dairy at the end adds a nice creaminess, but it's not necessary.

The result was a very happy accident -- an accident I plan on making next year.

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• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup.
  Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup. - M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

3 pounds San Marzano or plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

8 cloves garlic, peeled

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste

2 yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 cups packed basil leaves

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1-2 cups water or vegetarian broth


Splash of whole dairy milk/heavy cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place halved tomatoes and garlic cloves on the baking sheet and drizzle with ¼ cup of olive oil. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Allow them to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large pot and place over medium heat. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they have completely caramelized and turned golden.

Add tomatoes to a food processor or high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Next add basil and caramelized onions and blend again.

After blending, transfer back to pot, turn to medium low heat and add in oregano, broth and salt and pepper to taste. From there you can add in a splash of cream for a richer consistency. Allow tomato soup to simmer 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

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