Every kitchen repertoire needs a solid tomato soup recipe, especially in fall & winter. Cans of stalwart tomatoes line the pantry shelves, and their lure is not lost on this easy soup.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare your garlic for roasting by cutting the tip off the whole head of garlic, exposing the tops of each clove. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil, letting it seep into the cloves. Tuck it into a piece of foil and enclose it tightly. Set aside.
To prepare the tomatoes, drain the can, reserving the liquid for later use. Cut each tomato in half and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the remaining olive oil, brown sugar, cloves, and paprika. Make sure they’re well coated. Place on a baking sheet, leaving room so they can roast without being crowded.
Place in the preheated oven on the middle rack, leaving room for your garlic packet. Roast both for 1 hour, turning the tomatoes halfway through cooking time.
After an hour, the smell of your home should beckon the neighbors with heat-of-summer ripeness. Even in the middle of winter, this soup recalls afternoons in Abruzzo whizzing past sunflowers and tomato fields one after another, whose fallen San Marzanos have a ripening sensuality all their own. Now pull all your spoils from the oven and let cool a few minutes. Unveil the garlic carefully as the trapped steam can hurt if you stand over it with your nose shoved too forcefully in its direction. When cool enough to touch, grab the bottom of the whole head of garlic and squeeze into a small bowl. It should now look and smell sweet and sticky. Make sure you get as much of this essence as possible before composting the spent skins.
Now to bring this soup together. In a blender or food processor, combine the stock, reserved tomato juices, roasted tomatoes, and garlic paste. Process until it reaches your desired consistency. I like this soup velvety, so I let it purée until it doesn’t know itself anymore.
At this point, you can store in the fridge if you’re making this ahead for later use. Coincidentally, this soup is wonderful as a make-ahead meal because as it rests for a day or two, these flavors really marry and become fuller.
When ready to eat, gently warm it on the stove with the bay leaf. Add in the sherry vinegar and taste for seasoning. Turn off the heat and stir in the heavy cream, if using. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs such as parsley or chervil or green onion. And nobody would complain if you served this alongside a melty grilled cheese with crispy burnt edges. Savor with delight and gratitude.