It’s is currently thirty-nine degrees in Central Texas. I feel like one of those insects that’s been frozen alive. Nothing makes sense and I’m watching the world pass me by because I’m frozen stiff. I imagine that if someone were to pour this Roasted Tomato-Basil Bisque down my gullet, I’d be okay. If only there were a hero like that. Hector? Twinkies? Anyone?!?!
What You Need:
This Roasted Tomato-Basil is hearty, rich in flavor, and so easy to make that I’m going to have you eating it in a hot minute.
The roasted tomatoes I use are Roma tomatoes (AKA plum tomatoes). I prefer this variety because, consistently, they’re the best tasting ones that I can get locally. A great substitute would be very ripe heirlooms, or even cherry tomatoes. Just make sure they’re ripe. Carrots, celery, and onions- commonly known as a mirepoix- will form the base of the bisque. An entire head of garlic will be roasted with the veggies, as well. Half of it will go into the bisque, the other we’ll slather onto croutons. To bulk up the bisque, we’ll add a bay leaf, chicken stock and finish it with heavy cream, chiffonaded basil, and salt and pepper.
Let’s Get to It Because I’m Cold
First things first: you’ll need to cut your plum tomatoes into eighths. Just set up your cutting board, grab your sharpest chef’s knife, and have at it. Normally, whenever I roast veggies, I toss them in a good amount of quality olive oil. Because I want to dry out the tomatoes a bit more than I would the other veggies that I’m roasting, I’m just going to oil my sheet pan, instead. Go ahead and put the pan into your pre-heated oven and let the tomatoes roast for thirty to thirty-five minutes.
Unlike the tomatoes, we are going to toss our roughly chopped celery, carrots, and onions in a liberal amount of olive oil. We want the exterior of the veggies to practically char and that oil, plus the heat from the high-temperature, will help accomplish that. We’re also going to lop off the end of a head of garlic (not the hairy root end). After doing so, nestle the head of garlic (cut side up) in a square piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pour a tablespoon of that olive oil over the garlic head and bundle it up in the foil. Make sure it’s tightly wrapped so that it steams a bit while it’s roasting. Place the garlic bundle onto the pan, because we’re going to roast the garlic along with the veggies.
Roast these at the same temp, and for the same length of time, as the roasted tomatoes. They should look brown and nicely caramelized. Remember! Caramelization equals flavor! This shows you the darkest you want the veggies to get. If they’re getting too dark after twenty-five minutes, remove them from the oven.
Wrapping up the Roasted Tomato-Basil Bisque
Once the veggies are finished roasting, transfer everything except the garlic to a dutch oven. Use some of the chicken stock to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the sheet pans. I like to use a flat wooden spoon to scrape the bits from the pan, then I add those to the dutch oven with the veggies.
Add a tablespoon of sugar (which balances the acidity of the tomatoes), salt, pepper, the bay leaf, and the chicken stock to the pot, as well. If you want to make this a vegetarian bisque, use vegetable stock instead. It won’t be vegan because of the cream, however. Bring the mixture up to a boil, and reduce the heat to low to simmer for fifteen minutes.
While the soup simmers, chiffonade a bunch of fresh basil. Here’s a great culinary class on how to chiffonade herbs.
After the soup has simmered long enough, use your immersion blender to begin blending the mixture. Start on the lowest speed to avoid an accident. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you’ll need to carefully transfer it to your blender and puree it in batches. Remember to vent the lid to prevent an explosion!
After a few pulses with the immersion blender, take the head of garlic, and squeeze half of it into the pot, then blend until smooth.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped basil.
Removing from the heat source will help prevent the cream from curdling once you slowly stir it in- this is also when it turns into a bisque! Stir the cream in well. It’ll go from a bright red-orange color to an opaque coral color.
Toast the Toast-Topper!
Did you ever eat grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup as a kid? I did, and it tasted nothing like this does. This tastes fresh and wholesome, not metallic and plastic. Instead of making sandwiches, though, I slice and toast Italian bread under the broiler for a minute- just until they’re crispy.
Then, remember that roasted garlic we had left over? Well, I smear that onto each slice of bread and cover that with a slice of smoked gruyere cheese. Yes, I said I cover it with smoked gruyere cheese. I pop it back under the broiler for a few seconds and then…
…I said, “and then!!!”
Serve the soup with a crouton floating on top like it’s its own little island. Now, how could anyone be miserable when this is on the table? No matter how cold it is, this will make things loads better, I’m sure of it. So, pin this recipe for tonight’s dinner and enjoy a warm bowl of this Roasted Tomato-Basil Bisque in no time at all.
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Roasted Tomato-Basil Bisque
- 6 large (about 2 1/2 pounds) roma tomatoes, cut in eighths
- 2 stalks celery, washed and roughly chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 head of garlic (root end sliced off)
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 bunch (1/4 cup packed) fresh basil, cut in ribbons, plus whole leaves for garnish (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Cheesy Crouton Toppers
- 6 2" thick slices Italian bread
- 6 slices smoked gruyere cheese
- Preheat two ovens to 450°F. If you only have one oven, arrange the racks so that they're evenly spaced to accommodate a good air flow.
- Lightly grease one sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil and assemble the cut tomatoes onto the pan in a single layer. Roast the tomatoes for 30-35 minutes, or until they are browned on the edges.
- Toss the celery, carrots, and onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Nestle the head of garlic (cut side up) in a square piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and pour the remaining olive oil over it. Tightly wrap up the garlic in the foil and place the garlic onto the pan with the veggies.
- Roast the veggies for 30-35 minutes as well. When roasted they should look brown and nicely caramelized.
- Once the vegetables are finished roasting, transfer everything except the garlic to a dutch oven.
- Pour a 1/2 cup of the chicken stock onto the sheet pans and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the pans. Add this liquid to the dutch oven along with the tomatoes, the veggies, and the bay leaf.
- Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and the rest of the chicken stock to the pot. Bring the mixture up to a boil, and reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Once the soup has finished cooking, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture*. After a few pulses with the immersion blender, take the head of garlic, and squeeze half of it into the pot, then continue blending until smooth.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped basil and the cream. Stir the cream in well. If you're using very cold cream, you may have to return the pot to the stove and heat it until warmed through. Be sure to avoid boiling the bisque once the cream has been added.
Prepare the Cheesy Croutons
- Preheat your broiler (use a low broil setting if you have one).
- Arrange the slices of Italian bread on a small sheet pan and toast the slices until they're slightly crisp- about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
- Remove the pan from the oven and smear the remaining roasted garlic onto each slice of bread. Place a slice of the gruyere cheese on top of each bread slice and return the pan to the oven to broil.
- Broil just until the cheese begins to melt and remove the pan from the oven.
- Spoon the Roasted Tomato-Basil Bisque in individual bowls and top each serving with a cheesy crouton. Serve while hot.
- If you prefer not to roast the veggies, just saute the mirepoix for 7 minutes prior to adding the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes instead of 15.
- Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours and reheated on the stove until warmed through.
- Freeze the soup in zip-top freezer bags for up to six months. Thaw prior to reheating and serving.