Tomato Basil Soup

We’re in the thick of tomato season (June to September in the US), which means it’s time to share one of my favorite simple soups.

Tomato soup is a common comfort food here in the US, and has a similar association in many western countries; Poland, I’ve found, is particularly fond of the soup, as it is the first thing young chefs learn to make (a quick Google search of “Zupa Pomidorowa” yields 1.5 million results).

Tomatoes are relatively new to the Western palate; first imported from Mexico to Europe by Spanish explorers, they were initially considered poisonous and used as ornamentals. In 1789, Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the United States – he was Secretary of State at the time, which leads one to wish all Secretaries of State were judged by the deliciousness of foods imported during their tenure. In the US, tomatoes were not commonly eaten until the 1830s, and the first record of tomato soup was written by famous American author Maria Parloa in 1872. Joseph Campbell’s condensed tomato soup cemented its comfort-food status in 1897.

The English word tomato is on loan from the Spanish tomate, which was lifted from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tomatl. The first tomatoes were probably yellow, which makes sense when considering the other common word for the savory fruit, derived from the Italian pomodoro – a pairing of pomo ‎(“apple”) +‎ d’oro ‎(“golden”).

This soup takes about an hour to make with fresh tomatoes, slightly faster when using canned tomatoes, and significantly quicker with the help of my favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (instructions for each method below).

Tomato Basil Soup (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Whole30)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 tbsp ghee (or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
3 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered (or two 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, see note below)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, divided
4 drops Tabasco or other hot sauce
~3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cream (coconut milk ok)
salt and pepper to taste
basil leaves to garnish

Instant Pot Instructions:

1. Press the “Sauté” button and add the ghee to the Instant Pot; warm until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, half of the basil leaves, the Tabasco, and enough chicken broth to just cover the tomatoes, about 3 cups; cover and press the “Soup” button and set to high pressure for 6 minutes.

2. Once the soup finishes, force-depressurize the Instant Pot then remove the lid. Add the remaining half of the basil and transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth, in batches if needed (alternatively, use an immersion blender). Pour the soup through a strainer to catch any seeds, skins, and unblended chunks.

3. Stir in the cream and taste; add salt and pepper as desired, about 1/2 tsp pepper and 1 tsp salt. Serve immediately with basil leaves to garnish.

Stovetop Instructions:

1. In a stockpot, warm the ghee over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, half of the basil leaves, the Tabasco, and enough chicken broth to just cover the tomatoes, about 3 cups; bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the tomatoes are soft and slightly darkened, about 40 minutes.

2. Add the remaining half of the basil and transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth, in batches if needed (alternatively, use an immersion blender). Pour the soup through a strainer to catch any seeds, skins, and unblended chunks.

3. Stir in the cream and taste; add salt and pepper as desired, about 1/2 tsp pepper and 1 tsp salt. Serve immediately with basil leaves to garnish.

** If using canned whole peeled tomatoes, no need to sauté the tomatoes after you initially add them to the onion. If you’re going to buy canned tomatoes, might as well get them fire-roasted while you’re at it.

** If you want to be fancy, save a little cream to drizzle into each bowl of soup. If you want to be extra fancy, roast the tomatoes before adding them to the pot. Toss them in a bit of olive oil, then throw them in a 425F oven for 20 minutes, then broil until starting to spot, about 2 more minutes. While they roast, soften the onion; throw the roasted tomatoes into the pot and immediately add the other ingredients (no need to sauté the tomatoes); finish the rest of the dish following the instructions.

23 thoughts on “Tomato Basil Soup

  1. What could I use the strained tomato bits for? I just hate throwing away all that tomato-ey basil-infused goodness. Would it work for pasta?

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