Okay, it wasn’t really an emergency. It was just that our eight-year-old Nicholas really wanted creamy tomato soup for dinner when both parents were recovering–more weakly than we’d hoped–from a stomach virus that the kid had several days earlier. Daniel and I both were very sick Monday, a little better Tuesday, and then I went back to work yesterday but regretted it by mid-afternoon. On the way home, I was dizzy and gurgling ominously in the lower abdomen, so instead of stopping to buy the chicken soup Daniel had requested, I went straight home, thinking I would go to the store later. Nicholas was excited to go to the store and had decided he wanted tomato soup. We even had a coupon for new Campbell’s 100% Natural (the existence of which makes me want to stop buying their other soups, because you see what they’re saying there?).
But I never got better enough to leave the house. An hour past our usual dinnertime, I was still lying around moaning and had just added heartburn to my list of woes. I didn’t even feel capable of heating up and stirring canned soup if we’d had some available.
Daniel to the rescue! His first step was looking at a recipe for creamy tomato soup in the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, which he describes as, “where I look when I want something classic and American.” The recipe called for a large can of diced tomato. What we had was homemade marinara sauce. Since Nicholas is a fan of the creamy tomato soup at Panera Bread, which is Italian-flavored, we figured this would work. Daniel cut the recipe in half and used it as a guideline for how to combine milk and tomatoes without curdling. The result was this recipe:
Creamy Tomato Soup
To make 1 large or 2 small servings, you will need:
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- about 1/3 c water
- 1 T butter
- 1 T flour
- 2/3 c milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 smallish saucepans
In one pot, stir water into marinara until it becomes runny rather than thick. Simmer until bubbling.
Meanwhile, in other pot, make a white sauce: Melt the butter. Mix in the flour. Mix in the milk. Stir constantly until thickened.
Turn off heat. Pour hot tomato goo into white sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Soups from cans or restaurants typically are very salty. Purchased marinara sauce usually is more salty than homemade. So the amount of salt you’ll need to add to make it “taste right” will depend very much on the sauce you started with and the soup you’re emulating.)
At Nick’s request, Daniel toasted a few chunks of bread to sprinkle on top of the soup and served the rest of the bread soft on the side, to simulate the croutons and bread bowl at Panera. Nicholas was pleased. I had a taste, after my heartburn calmed down, and was surprised how similar to Panera’s soup it tasted. I bet we could get even closer to the flavor if we seasoned the croutons and learned to make sourdough bread in round loaves for bread bowls….
A person recovering from an illness that changes the body’s fluid balance (as Nicholas is) may have more of a taste for salt than normal, and this particular batch of homemade marinara was saltier than some. Still, do you suppose he got a healthier meal than Panera’s soup or the canned soup we would have bought? (Surprise! Panera’s with the croutons has a lot less sodium than the canned stuff–notice the difference in serving size–and it’s a little better on fiber and vitamins. We can’t make a fair comparison of fat, cholesterol, or calcium because the canned soup doesn’t contain milk.)
Campbell’s 100% Natural soups may not contain artificial ingredients, but they do contain things like cornstarch and soybean oil that are likely made from genetically modified ingredients, and the can lining likely contains Bisphenol A or other yucky chemicals. Canned soup is a Sometimes Food around here…but I think those sometimeses are going to be a bit farther apart, now that we know how to make our own Creamy Tomato Soup so easily!