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How to Make Tomato Soup Without a Recipe

By • January 6, 2014 • 24 Comments

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Managing Editor Brette Warshaw explains why tomato soup should be your go-to pantry meal -- and how to make it without a recipe.

Tomato soup from Food52

Remember last week, when you stocked your pantry and printed out recipes and planned your meals and decided to cook responsibly, virtuously, and nobly this year?

This is what you're going to do.

Tonight, or any night this week, or for lunch, or for a late night snack, you will turn to your newly-stocked pantry. You will take out a can of tomatoes. You will turn on your stove. And with three ingredients -- or more, if you so choose -- you will have a bowl of steaming happiness in front of you: a bowl to cradle on your lap as you watch Downton Abbey, or to dunk a grilled cheese in, or to pair with a fabulous main course that you had meticulously planned out (because you obviously did that, right?). 

Here's how to make tomato soup your savior this year.

How to Make Tomato Soup Without a Recipe

1. Chop an allium or two; onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks are all fair game. 

Tomato soup from Food52


2. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a big pot, and saute your alliums with a big pinch of salt until they're nice and soft. Add any spices you'd like; try black pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme, or cumin.

Sauteed onions from Food52


3. Add a big can of tomatoes and a cup of water or broth. (If the tomatoes are whole, break them up with your hands as you add them.) You can get roughly 4 servings out of a 28-ounce can, or, if you're like me, you can finish it yourself.

Tomato soup from Food52


4. Let it all simmer down to your desired thickness; this will take around twenty to thirty minutes. Taste it -- the tomatoes should've lost their raw wateriness by now. If not, keep on simmering until it tastes good. Season with salt and pepper. If you're adding cream or milk, swirl it in now.

Tomato soup from Food52


5. Once the soup has cooled slightly, blend! You can use an immersion blender if you want to keep it chunky, or blend half and mix it back in. Serve it with toast or grilled cheese or a salad. January just got a whole lot better.

Tomato soup from FOod52

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

Jump to Comments (24)

Tags: everyday cooking, soup, winter, tomatoes, tomato soup

Comments (24)


8 months ago esprit15d

I actually teared up reading this. Looks so comforting and not intimidating. With a little personal flourish, a wonderful base recipe for a family recipe.


10 months ago Rita

Super good! We loved it with a garlic/olive oil fried bread.


10 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

My favorite tomato soup I make in pretty much the same way, except that I add some red lentils to give it a protein boost, making it a wonderful vegan meal for winter weeknights, and I flavor it with a tadka just before serving. I wanted to share on Food52 my favorite way to use kala jeera so I typed it up as a recipe . (I'm mystified as to why that and a related one posted by me are the only recipes on this site that call for kala jeera.) ;o)


10 months ago Paula Bauer

Pat Tiffany, Tomato soup need not be a mash...I prefer substance such as lumps of veggies....In a way I think it is more hardy....
Harvey Ball, I think she means not a bookbound or whatever recipe... recipe is as organic as it gets...see below


10 months ago Harvey Ball

How to make soup without a recipe...

Now here's the 5 steps you need to do, along with ingredients, quantities, and cooking instructions.

Isn't that exactly what a recipe is????????????????????


10 months ago nunya biz

my recipe for tomato soup requires 30's called open the can,add water and microwave.


10 months ago Quantumnerd

Be careful of canned tomatoes, the lining in the can has BPA, Bisphenol A, especially for children. the FDA expressed "some concern" about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children. Most canned fruits and vegetables have it, but with tomatoes the acidity leaches out a lot more of the BPA. BPA is also in sippy cups and baby bottles so make sure you buy BPA free items for children and babies. Sorry the soup looks really yummy and they do make canned tomatoes in BPA free cans. Here is a link for more info on BPA. I have to say something about this a lot of people don't know about it. :) It's also in water bottles so please use Brita pitchers they are free of BPA, and also they won't litter our earth and seas with discarded plastic water bottles. There is an island of water bottles floating in the Pacific, 3 times the size of Texas, it's leaching BPA out into our waters, no wonder our sea life is dying and disappearing. I don't mean to be so political on a soup recipe but I just like to inform people of these dangers. :) You can google more on this. You'll be pretty surprised. :)


11 months ago cathy

no, do not drain the liquid.


10 months ago Jim

Thanks Cathy. Life saver.


11 months ago Jim

Should tomatoes be drained of the liquid in the can?


11 months ago Heidihelm

I often add some smoked paprika to the onion sauté.


11 months ago cathy

I like to roast the tomatoes and it gives a deeper flavor to the soup.


11 months ago Paula Bauer

In the fall, throw whole washed and dried tomatoes in the freezer on a cookie sheet (can do same with peppers.) When frozen bag them. So when the crop is too don't have to can for weeks.
Take out as many tomatoes as you think you'll need and thaw, when the outside is thawed...cut out stem piece and rub the skin in your hands till it seperates from fruit/veg. fine chop or squish with hands.
Using olive oil, saute chopped onions and garlic and celery till barely golden to release flavors and then add tomatoes...and simmer till the right consistancy.
S & P to taste, and a tiny pinch of nutmeg and a few flakes of basil...(sometimes a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of vinegar) if you want to add cream or milk do it now....just before serving. I only use organic, and home grown as much as possible


11 months ago Pat Tiffany

How 'bout just doing it all (except sautéing the onions, etc) in the Vitamix?


11 months ago Brette Warshaw

I think you'd have to cook the tomatoes, still -- or else they'd still taste watery.


11 months ago NuMystic

I've done entire tomato soups in the vitamix (raw onions and all) and then just poured it into a pot on the stove for a while to cook afterwards and it's indistinguishable from one done in stages on the stovetop and blended smooth after.

Only reason to use the stove for the onions first is if you have the time and/or inclination to fully caramelize them.

If you don't have cream (or are feeding vegans) and still want to add creamy body to the soup a can of white beans works a treat too.


11 months ago Lauren Kodiak

This is exactly how I make my tomato soup! If I'm feeling fancy, I'll add in fresh ginger (with the shallots) and some full-fat coconut milk.


11 months ago Brette Warshaw

Oh wow that sounds awesome.


11 months ago Rachel Lewis Freeman

Didn't have 28 oz can. Used a can of roasted tomatoes with garlic and a can of tomatoes with chilies. Threw in some cumin. Warmed me up big time from clearing off my car in zero degrees weather.


11 months ago Panfusine

My favorite kind of dishes, w/o recipes! love this one especially, reminds me of Marcella Hazan's sauce recipe


11 months ago Brette Warshaw

Yup, I eat like that soup too many times to admit.


11 months ago Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

I'm in the camp that could polish this off single-handedly. Nothing better than 3-ingredient recipes. Thanks!


11 months ago Joy Belamarich

A glug of sherry (after the onions, before the tomatoes) also does wonders :)


11 months ago Brette Warshaw

Oh AWESOME idea!