bella terra: tomatoes, part 1

You might remember that peaches claimed the number one spot on my “favorite summer produce” list.  But I must say, it was a close, close race.  In fact, Brian and I agreed that the attributes we loved most about both peaches and tomatoes were mostly the same. Both taste infinitely better during their season than at any other point in the year.  The personal acquisition of each (peaches from the orchard, tomatoes from our garden) guarantees a freshness and minimization of the bruises that these fragile fruits usually have when gathered from the grocery store, not to mention warm + fuzzy memories of time spent with your honey.  And finally, both peaches and tomatoes are so very summer.  In the end, I think it was my sweet tooth and Brian’s lack thereof that determined each of our favorites.

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The ripening of tomatoes in our garden is a bittersweet time for me.  Sweet, because we look forward to the juicy yellow, orange and red fruits from the time we plant the seedlings in mid-May, and bitter because it signals the beginning of the end – the downward slide of summer into fall.  Especially this year, when our harvest season has been cut so short by the blight claiming tomatoes across the Northeast.  Brian and I noticed it early this year, the slow yellowing then browning and shriveling of the lowest branches on our plants.  Eventually, the plants become skeletons of their former selves, with sad tomatoes hanging desperately to branches for as long as they can.  We learned this year that there is no way to avoid the fungus, especially since we have a strict no-spray rule, and if we want a full harvest season next year we need to plant a succession of tomatoes every 4 weeks starting in May and ending in July.  Lesson learned.

tomatosoup merge 1

Despite the blight, we have had way too many tomatoes to handle all at once, just not enough for all of the canned sauces and salsas we had planned.  We’ve had countless tomato mozzarella salads, tomato + hummus + ham sandwiches, roasted tomato pastas and just plain tomato slices sprinkled with salt and eaten while standing over the kitchen sink, juice dripping from our hands.  Friends and neighbors have been lucky recipients of our extras – and in fact our guests last weekend claimed our house as the best “bed and breakfast” they’d stayed at as they loaded their car with a bag of heirloom tomatoes and a jar of homemade jam.  In return, they shared a recipe for Heirloom Tomato Soup that was not only delicious, but a great way to use up large quantities of our bounty.

tomatosoup merge 2

We made it the next night, and I was pleased after my first taste to find that it was reminiscent of a favorite tomato basil soup I enjoyed at a local Greek restaurant while in graduate school – rich and creamy, with a nice spice that hits the back of your throat after each bite.  It was wonderful with fresh heirloom tomatoes from the garden, but I also look forward to trying it with canned tomatoes in the winter when I need a little reminder of warmer days.   For me, tomato soup has no particular season – I’ll take it any time of the year.

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This soup is the grown-up version of a childhood favorite, and pairs perfectly with grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches.  We made ours with a fresh french baguette, jarslberg cheese and salty soprassata – but feel free to use whatever soft cheese and cured meat makes you happiest.

Creamy Heirloom Tomato Soup

I adapted this recipe from a friend’s adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe.  The original didn’t use any cream, which I’m sure would be good, but the cream makes it oh, so delicious…

serves 4 for dinner with a salad or sandwiches


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional – use more or less to suit your tastes)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
  • 6 large heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 2 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes, if you make this in any season other than summer)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 large slices good quality bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup light cream
  • salt and ground pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, thyme, basil and red pepper flakes, stirring until onions are translucent.
  2. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, until tomatoes start to break down.  Using wooden spoon, mash tomatoes against side of pot to release juices.
  3. Stir in sugar and bread, stirring occasionally until bread starts to break down, about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer soup to a blender in batches and puree’ until smooth and creamy (if you have an immersion blender, feel free to use it in the soup pot).  Return soup to pot and stir in chicken broth and cream.  Reheat, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with mini grilled jarlsberg and sopressata sandwiches, if desired.

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We’ve been eating a LOT of tomatoes in our house, so stay tuned for more Bella Terra: Tomato posts…


And, the Bella Eats Jam winner is…JENNY (comment #7)!  Send me an email at bellaeats[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll get your jam out to you this week.  If I don’t hear from Jenny, I’ll select another winner randomly in my next post.

Other Bella Terra posts this season:

Bella Terra: Preparation

Bella Terra: Chives

Bella Terra: Herbs

Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps

Bella Terra: Red Beets

Bella Terra: Kale

Bella Terra: Cucumbers

Bella Terra: Blackberries


27 responses to “bella terra: tomatoes, part 1

  1. The soup was great!

    I made it as well, with the only real change being use of “No-Chicken” Broth instead of Chicken Broth. It has an equally great taste and is vegi-friendly!

    Thanks for another great recipe!

  2. Hooray for tomato soup! As one of Andrea’s lucky guests last weekend I can attest that indeed you will be hard pressed to find a better table at which to eat … thank you again dear! I’m just about to try the zucchini chocolate ginger muffins …

  3. Aw, thanks you two! We love you guys. 🙂 We used the “no-chicken” base too…love it! Come back to visit soon!

  4. Are you making reference to CAFE EUROPA’S TOMATO BASIL SOUP? That stuff was like my crack. I can’t wait to try your recipe!

  5. Mica – You got it! That stuff is the best. I don’t get over there nearly enough now that I’m not in school anymore…

  6. I agree, I’ll take homemade tomato soup any time of the year..although NOTHING quite compares to that of fresh, locally grown tomatoes- especially when they are from your own garden! This soups looks and sounds incredible! I’m saving it to make as soon as my home fills up with tomatoes!! Your produce is never ending gorgeous!! 🙂

  7. Wow. I’m in awe of your tomatoes – so many! so beautiful! – even if it was a bit different than what you were expecting. This was my first year growing them and I’m pleased with the results, even though I don’t have TOO many and must’ve already murdered a pretty large population!

  8. When my husband and I move to a place with a yard, the first item to be planted in our future garden will be tomatoes! Even during tomato season, I find grocery store picks lackluster at best. There’s just nothing quite like a homegrown tomato. Your soup looks velvety and delicious!

  9. what a great idea for summer tomatoes. I love creamy tomato soup with cheese sandwiches 🙂

  10. You are so right! Sometimes comfort may be found only in a bowl of creamy tomato soup with a grilled cheese dunker. These scrumptious photos have sparked a major craving!

  11. mm..i agree about tomatoes. and tomato soup! I’ve never made my own, but this recipe looks really good.

  12. Dude. I am on a quest to find a perfect substitute for Pacific Brand Tomato Soup (Hello, my name is Carter and I have an addiction.) This looks like a strong contender.

  13. That soup looks GREAT.

  14. Those tomatoes are all gorgeous! I’m totally inspired to do more with tomatoes myself.

  15. Love the combo in your sammies – while I make pasta sauce and salsa with my tomatoes, I’ve never made tomato soup – this weekend I will!

  16. Your tomatoes are STUNNING. I am jealous… I don’t know if it was the blight, or the fact that it was my first year tending a garden and I didn’t “tend” all that often, but we got a sad little tomato crop. A few nice, juicy yellow ones, but nothing like your bounty.

    I must say, we haven’t had enough to use in a recipe. I’ll admit we’ve eaten them all as an appetizer! Sometimes remembering to throw some basil on top… but usually with a grind of salt and a smile on our faces.

  17. You never cease to impress me, Andrea! From your growing to picking to preserving, you’re just a superstar.

    The soup looks delicious, but I have to admit I’d dive right into that platter. Nothing’s better than fresh tomatoes.

  18. Your photography really is great. That soup just jumps off the page. Keep it up!

  19. Your tomatoes look amazing!!! Mine never got that big this year. I’ll have to try the soup recipe too, it looks great!! 🙂

  20. I am bowled over by your tomatoes. Holy crumb. God I missed reading your blog!

  21. Pingback: bella terra: pick-me-up « bella eats

  22. do you keep the seeds of the tomatoes or seed them? i have a HUGE bowl of tomatoes from the garden (not mine) and would love to make this soup! we have already made my mom’s homemade sauce, caprese salads and sandwiches, eaten them over the sink just like you, but still have a big bowl left!

  23. Rhodeygirl – I keep the seeds in…so much easier! They get pureed so you’re not bothered by them in the soup. Let me know how you like it!

  24. Pingback: bella terra: 2009 « bella eats

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