Three Ingredient Tomato Soup

One of the glories of being a parent is teaching your kid about all of life's honest pleasures as they grow. New flowers in spring. Funny books. Their first movie theater experience. Swimming. Words that rhyme. Waving to dogs. The unending parade of pizza varieties.

This very snowy winter has coincided perfectly with Jack's reaching proper frolicking age (that is, he's confident enough on his feet to run in clunky snow boots on uncertain terrain), so the seasonal pleasures on my agenda have included the layering-on of much winter gear for some good, messy snow play outside. Flushed, cool cheeks and maybe a bit of sweat on the brow. Definitely wet mittens tied together and hung up to dry once inside, ideally in the vicinity of an active fireplace. And in my world, such play is necessarily followed by a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows AND/OR a bowl of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich cut into the requisite triangles. You may think I only sound this serious for effect, but you'd be wrong. I am stone cold for real, especially about the soup part.

Which is how, one recent snow day, I managed to shock myself with the realization that I didn't have a go-to recipe for tomato soup. And after a quick think, standing in a foot and a half of snow, my butt freezing in my jeans because I was the one dumbass in this family to attempt a snow angel, I realized something obvious. Like maybe dumb-obvious? Like I'm almost embarrassed to tell you about it obvious?

You take Marcella Hazan's beloved, legendary, quintessential, an-institution-unto-itself tomato sauce recipe and you just make soup instead.

That is, you start with a big can of tomatoes, an onion, and butter. You add water or broth (whatever you have), and you let it simmer for as long as you've got. Thirty minutes, 3 hours, all day. You put it together when you think of it and then you forget about it. Then you blitz it with an immersion blender. The end.

How had I not thought of this? The brightness of the tomatoes cooks down, curling itself into the softness of the butter; the onions surrender their angularity given enough time and heat. A bay leaf is nice, but optional. Cream is great, but optional. Basil is lovely, but, you guessed it, optional. 

Maybe you're not so serious about soup in winter as I am. Maybe you live somewhere that doesn't have snow. But I shudder to think of anyone living life without a recipe for a back-pocket tomato soup. This one requires about 30 seconds of hands-on time and comes together really gracefully, even in half an hour if that's all the time you've got. 



Fastest Tomato Soup - adapted from Marcella Hazan


  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled or diced tomatoes

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in quarters

  • Vegetable or chicken stock, or water

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Add the tomatoes with their juices, butter, and onion to a large pot. (If using whole peeled tomatoes, crush them gently in the pot with the back of a wooden spoon or squeeze gently with your hands.) Fill the tomato can with water or stock and add to the pot. Salt the mixture generously and add pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer on very low heat for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.

When ready to serve, turn off the heat and blend carefully using an immersion blender. You can also use a regular blender by adding the mixture carefully with a ladle, blending it briefly, and returning it to the pot. Check once more for seasoning, add salt & pepper if needed.

Add a few tablespoons of cream or half and half at the end if you like. I've also added a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes just before blending. A few basil leaves whizzed in are also really nice, but this truly is simple and perfect as-is.

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