Make Ahead

Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup

January  1, 2013
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This is a spicy tomato soup that you can make on a whim and eat nearly as soon. (It's also, at its core, 5 vegan ingredients you probably already have.) Recipe adapted very slightly from Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste -- we started with 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crème fraîche, for garnish (optional)
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. (If you're in a hurry, you can skip the simmer time -- just add a bit less water.) Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off).
  4. Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat on medium low until hot. If you choose, serve topped with a tablespoon of crème fraîche.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Katie Hornstein
    Katie Hornstein
  • Jocelyn Grayson
    Jocelyn Grayson
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
  • Darlene
  • Russell Cunningham
    Russell Cunningham
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

47 Reviews

EO September 12, 2020
Excellent and easy. I had no canned tomatoes but a waning pound of small Italian tomatoes that I roasted before returning to the original recipe. I've made it three times since. Thanks!
anjali August 26, 2020
the wonderful recipe I was following the same recipe
magill July 6, 2020
Had used a similar recipe in the past but lost it, so was happy to find this. Admittedly, that coloured a couple of things as I made this recipe for the first time. I used 1) 1 can of crushed tomatoes (heresy, I know), 2) 2c chicken stock instead of water and 3) 1/2 tsp crushed chili and 1 tsp of a fav hot sauce. Plus an immersion blender, no straining, for a more textured, less smooth (elegant?) finish.

The only thing I find is a little goes a long way and the texture does too - garlic toast (toasted bread rubbed with a clove of garlic, no oil) is a great dipper for some contrast. I also tested some leftover meatballs I had just made which worked well. And something else to test (based on the meatballs) would be a generous sprinkle of walnuts toasted in a bit of oil. I might even test some crumbled goat or feta cheese (with the walnuts even) once the creme fraiche melts.

Happy to have the recipe back in my repertoire.
Katie H. October 27, 2019
This is a keeper. I used two large shallots and garlic instead of just one onion. The flavor and texture of the strained soup was superb.
Jocelyn G. December 8, 2017
This was delicious. Used 3/4 teaspoon chile flakes and an immersion blender. Perfect with grilled cheese.
Rosalind P. January 4, 2017
I am always amused at comments about recipes that purport to love the recipe but make so many changes that they are essentially creating a different dish. So what I'm about to say is that I do love this recipe and wouldn't change anything, except to adjust the heat from the red peppers depending on who will be eating it. BUT I also want to say that it reminds me of a similar recipe for tomato soup that is also worth a try: same amount of tomatoes and onion, with the zested skin of one orange, 5 ounces of orange juice and a quart of vegetable broth. The citrus is a delightful and subtle difference. Not better than the recipe for spicy tomato soup. Just different. And it puzzles me that some have found this soup "bad" for diets. The creme fraiche is optional (I think the dairy muddies the purity of the tomatos) and without it, it is perfect for diets.
Darlene October 30, 2016
My only change was to add garlic during the last minute or two of cooking the onions and then, as others suggested, I used my immersion blender at the end and it came out perfectly. We found that 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes worked well for us. I expect to enjoy this simple, but delicious recipe with its minimal ingredient list over and over all through fall and winter. .
Russell C. October 26, 2015
Oh $hit! There goes my diet!
kxr173 February 22, 2015
I loved this. Have had the soup many a time at BL's restaurant, The Butcher Shop and this was just as delicious! I even strained it, despite having a Vitamix just to follow it exactly the first time around. Perfection. I will be making this again & again and will get lazy sometimes & skip that step :-) Loved it, didn't need a thing!
Kaede S. January 2, 2015
Just made this with Muir Glen whole tomatoes also. It was pretty smooth after going through my Cuisinart food processor so I didn't strain. I like my soup having a bit of texture. This is delish. It will go nicely with a grilled cheese.
sarabclever October 21, 2014
I've made this and loved it. However, the last time I made it, I did so in my new Vitamix and it didn't taste very good at all. There's nothing to strain out with a vitamix, but I wouldn't have thought not doing so would make it so bland tasting. I wonder if I just was having an off day, or if it's the straining (or lack thereof) as it's the only thin I can think that I did differently. Have been meaning to try again but trying to do some troubleshooting first!
Pam S. July 9, 2014
My favorite tomato soup has toasted cumin seeds and garlic. The cumin adds a nutty, smoky depth.
nancyg April 1, 2014
I make this with Muir Glenn's Fire Roasted tomatoes & chicken stock....deeeelicious.I DON'T strain, just use my "motor boat"blender in the pot.
LittleKi March 23, 2014
This is so ridiculously easy, it's almost embarrassing that this isn't already in our repertoire! I've made several tomato soups and this is the easiest and the best. I downsized it to use the last pint of my home-canned tomatoes. I didn't have basil, so I just left that out. The level of spice *is* a bit strong; I'd dial it back next time. Used my vitamix, didn't strain. Fantastic. I might put up an extra dozen pints or so next year just to have on hand for this.
cmita18 March 11, 2014
This is one of my favorite soup recipes to avoid a sad desk lunch! I also use an immersion blender to cut down on prep, and I've also found that balancing my small strainer over top of my KitchenAid mixing bowl is the best way to strain, since it's deeper than your typical mixing bowl.
MJ February 20, 2014
I love this soup. I use my immersion blender, very quick, very easy!
piccantedolce February 19, 2014
I have Barbara Lynch's cookbook Stir and this is one of my go to recipes from it. I love it as is, but I made a version this weekend where I subbed 1/4 tsp of smoked Spanish paprika for the chili flake and added 2 cloves of garlic, sliced. It was delicious! Like the most perfect homemade version of Campbell's.
Paulo C. December 9, 2013
Great recipe, if you want instead of the creme fraiche just put eggs and let them boil.
LeeLeeBee December 1, 2013
This is a great recipe. We love spicy food, but 1/2 tsp of extra hot red pepper flakes were enough for us. I skip the blending and straining steps and just use an immersion blender - I prefer the slightly thicker texture to watery soup.
JonQuirk July 14, 2013
This is an absolutely perfect recipe. I made no adjustments whatsoever and it came out perfectly. If you want to top it off the way Barbara Lynch does, make some mini-toasts out of a baguette, glass them with a bit of evoo, salt, cheese if you like, and press some caraway seeds into it, and bake until crisp. The perfect accompaniment to this perfect soup. I will be making this for the rest of my life.