One of my favorite winter comfort meals is tomato soup and grilled cheese. It takes me straight back to my childhood when I would sit at the stool in my parents kitchen dunking my hot sandwich into the soup bowl, marrying the flavors of tomato and cheddar cheese to my liking. These days I serve the same meal to my daughter and she seems to love it just as much as I did. To amp up the flavors of my old favorite I recently made homemade Tomato Soup Florentine, a tomato based soup flavored with basil, onions and wilted spinach. It was a light and hearty soup that was so much better than anything from a can. I paired it with our favorite kind of grilled cheese: extra sharp cheddar on whole wheat bread. It was such a comforting meal it felt like a hug on a plate, just the thing to get us through short days and long dark nights while we wait for spring to arrive.
Tomato Soup Florentine
Makes 8 cups
½ cup onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
28 ounces whole tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons dried basil, or ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and stir until soft. About 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and pepper flakes, cook for 1 minute.
2. Carefully pour in white wine, simmer until almost completely evaporated. Pour in the cans of tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth and basil. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a boil for 1 minute. Then, reduce heat and simmer soup for 10 minutes.
3. Working carefully, puree soup with a hand blender until completely smooth. Or, scoop it into a blender and puree until smooth. When all of the soup is completed return it to the pot and bring it to a simmer.
4. Allow soup to simmer for a few minutes, then stir in the sugar and vinegar. Stir in spinach and allow to wilt. Serve hot with a garnish of cheese.