Makes 4 servings.
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 heaping tablespoons fresh basil (leaves only), chopped or fine chiffonade (measured after chopping)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half or milk, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and place in a mixing bowl*. Add basil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss or stir gently to mix. Spread tomato mixture onto a foil-lined (for easy cleanup), rimmed baking pan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a stock pot or large saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion, cook until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the roasted tomato mixture, the reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf, sugar and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Remove bay leaf. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth, or blend in a regular blender, working in batches. Add dairy**, if using, stirring well to blend. Taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary.
*If you’re dirty-dish-averse, you can do the mixing part right on the prepared baking sheet. Just be gentle so you don’t rip the foil or fling tomatoes to and fro.
**This soup is pretty smooth and creamy as it is, without milk or cream. However, if you’re a creamy-tomato-soup addict like SoupAddict, add 1 tablespoon of dairy at a time until it reaches your desired level of creamy goodness.