Here are a series of tomato soup/sauces that will take you a long way. The take-home point here is that an onion, garlic, and a can of tomatoes form the basis for a wide variety of great meals. I’ll finish with the recipe for chickpeas in spicy tomato broth with pickled red onions and wilted kale.
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes 28 oz (standard large tin)
+/- fresh vs dried herb
+/- fresh minced garlic
Emulsify in your blender or put it in a bowl, and use your immersion blender. No cooking required, if you’re making pizza, it cooks then.
Pasta sauce marinara
Small handful of diced onion
Olive oil on medium high heat
Sautee the onions until they soften, then add the garlic. Beware of overcooking at this point, the garlic will burn and the sauce will be bitter.
Add the tomatoes and stew until they soften. If you want more depth of flavor, cover and let it cook for an hour or so. You can add tomato paste if you’d like, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Add salt, pepper, herbs as you wish (oregano, thyme, basil), blend as before.
Optional: red wine, fennel, peppers, olives, etc. If you want it, put it in there.
Same recipe for pasta sauce.
Add one tomato can full of water (about 3 cups worth)
Season to taste, add some red wine vinegar to give it some acidity if the tomatoes don’t have enough for your taste.
Make the tomato soup, but add seeded, dried chiles and /or canned chipotles. Somewhere in there add corn either in the form of corn meal, grits, polenta, old tortillas, charred corn kernels, etc.
Make the tomato soup. To make it a bisque, it just means it’s thickened in some way other than reduction.
You want a cream and an acid.
For cream try yogurt, half and half, heavy cream, butter.
For acid try sherry or sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar.
For a brighter colored soup, only soften the onions and do it over lower heat so they don’t turn dark. Don’t add balsamic vinegar in that case. For a lower-fat version, you can add some starch, either arrowroot flour, corn starch, or leftover rice prior to blending.
Make the tortilla soup sans corn, add beans/meat in whatever ratios you want.
Make a spicy version of tomato soup, add fresh fish and squid, garnish with flat parsley, serve with sourdough bread.
Only implies with spinach. If you want to add pasta shells, go for it.
Chickpeas in spicy garlic tomato broth (adapted from City House recipe that includes braised octopus)
Make the tomato soup, but add some red chili flakes, and use 6 cloves of garlic (more or less depending on your taste).
For pickled red onions, thinly slice the onions and put into a strainer. Season generously with salt and let it sit and drain for about 30 minutes. Rinse (or not) and add vinegar of choice, goes well with red wine or sherry vinegars. If you want to take the bite out of the onions prior to pickling, blanch first. In boiling water, add the onions for at most 2 minutes, strain and shock in ice water bath.
Chickpeas were done in salted water on the pressure cooker for 40 minutes.
Kale was dressed with oil and salt, tossed to evenly coat and set aside for an hour until the oil wilts the greens and makes them soften.
Final treatment with black pepper and finely grated parmesan.
I hope you see it’s easy to do. One of my favorites is the bisque with grilled cheese sandwiches and a little hot sauce to the soup. Of course, this is from someone who at one point could make a meal out of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, tabasco, and saltines.