Crema di Pomodoro. Reliably Good.

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As I write this it is 71 degrees F outside, the second day in a row of “unseasonably” warm temperatures here in Virginia. By Friday we’ll be back below freezing, with flurries predicted and with wind and buckets of rain between now and then. Such are the crazy weather patterns in the Old Dominion.

My answer to this unpredictability is simple: Crema di pomodoro, or, cream of tomato soup. What’s more reliable than that? The taste of this classic soup is familiar to everyone, it doesn’t take long to make and it is appetizing, whether it’s 7 degrees outside or 70. (We don’t get many single-digit days here, but I’ve lived through plenty, first as a college student in upstate New York and then as a newspaper reporter in Detroit. Sometimes I feel like I’m still thawing out, which might be why I eat so much soup.)

In summer it’s nice to make tomato soup with fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, but in winter canned is the only way to go. I pass the tomatoes through a food mill first to get rid of the seeds. Once the soup is cooked I puree it right in the pot with an immersion blender (yes, that immersion blender). Use your favorite herb to enhance the flavor. In summer I go for the obvious choice ~ basil. In winter I like the warm scent of bay leaf.

Garnish this smooth soup with a few crumbles of bacon or pancetta croutons. You could substitute bread croutons or a swirl of cream, or even a dollop of pesto…if you wanted to be unpredictable.

Makes 6 servings

Crema di Pomodoro

(copyright 2013 Domenica Marchetti)

When it comes to this classic soup, I believe that simple is best. Start with good quality canned tomatoes in their own juice rather than in heavy puree (which tastes too much like tomato paste). Sweet onions and carrots balance the tomatoes' acidity and a splash of cream adds just enough richness. If you don't have a food mill to puree the tomatoes, you can use tomato puree. Just be sure to use puree that tastes fresh and isn't too thick and pasty. (However, if you do a fair amount of Italian cooking I recommend having a food mill on hand. It's great for pureeing fresh tomatoes for sauce, while catching the seeds and skins.)

This soup MUST be accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 whole bay leaf (in winter) or 5 shredded basil leaves (in summer)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • Optional garnishes: Crumbled cooked bacon, pancetta croutons or bread croutons


Put the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted add the onions and carrots and toss to coat well. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are shiny and have begun to soften.

While the vegetables are cooking, puree the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the disk with the smallest holes. Discard the solids. Add the pureed tomatoes to the vegetables, along with the broth. Toss in the bay leaf (or basil). Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the head to medium-low, cover partly and let cook at a gentle simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until the onions and carrots are very tender and break apart easily when pierced with a fork.

Remove the soup from the heat and remove the bay leaf, if using. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, let the soup cool for about 10 minutes, then puree in a food processor or standard blender. Return the soup to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper and with a pinch of cayenne, if you like.

Stir in the cream and reheat the soup over medium-low heat until heated through. Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with bacon, pancetta croutons or bread croutons.

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23 Responses to Crema di Pomodoro. Reliably Good.

  1. Laura (Tutti Dolci) January 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    I love tomato soup, this looks so comforting!

    • Domenica January 31, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      Thank you Laura. It may just be the universal comfort food.

  2. Adri January 31, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    You are right. It is a classic, and yours sounds great. I have never made it with beef broth – I have to try that. I bet it is perfect for cold weather.

    On to the immersion blender – I have wondered about you and the tool of digital mayhem. I wondered if perhaps you had chucked it. I’m glad to hear you did not.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I decided to purchase one and was soliciting opinions. I considered asking you, but hesitated for fear of opening old wounds! Frankly, now that I have one I can not believe I waited this long – what a cool tool. But what potential hazard. Bart and I talked about your accident, and it is easy to see how it could happen. Careful is the watchword.

    And you are right about the grilled cheese.

    • Domenica January 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Beef broth was a last-minute variation as I was making the soup the other night. It seemed like an appropriate choice for winter.

      As for the immersion blender, the NY Times ran this piece a couple of weeks ago about injuries caused by immersion blenders:

      They look plenty innocuous but that little blade can really slice and shred. That said, it works great and I love being able to puree soup right in the pot. Just be sure to unplug it as soon as you are done using it, before pressing that disengage button! I was distracted and I paid the price. Happily, my finger is intact and working just fine (though it still feels a little weird).

  3. ciaochowlinda January 31, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I’ve never tried this with canned tomatoes, but why not? The ones in the stores right now are so unappetizing. I still don’t own a food mill — something I’ll have to change soon. The bacon is a nice finishing touch.

    • Domenica January 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      Hi Linda!
      The canned tomatoes made a delicious soup. Classic flavor. I’ve had my food mill forever. I think it was a gift from my mom and it’s moved around with me all these years. BUT, I didn’t start using it regularly until a few years ago. I don’t always feel like pulling it out of the cabinet, assembling it and dealing with the (slight) mess, but it works beautifully. And it’s a lot safer than an immersion blender (see above reply to Adri’s comment). 🙂

  4. Wendy January 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    this sounds just wonderful and perfect for the return of the cold weather! I wish I had already made some so I could have it for lunch today.

    • Domenica January 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      It really is one of those quick & easy recipes, Wendy. The whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

  5. Tracy January 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I agree that “This soup MUST be accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich”. How perfect. Oh how I wish for a bowl right now.

    • Domenica January 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      Tracy ~ I’ll bet there are all sorts of wonderful accompaniments to tomato soup (and grilled cheese) in your kitchen.

  6. elisa January 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    I love creamy tomato soup! I like to make it throwing in those little frozen cubes from fresh crushed basil (from T.J’), they have the same fresh taste of the basil leaves. Thank you for the delicious ricetta!

    • Domenica January 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

      Yes, Elisa, I like having those cubes on hand too, especially at this time of year when fresh (inexpensive) basil is not easy to find. Grazie!

  7. Jamie February 1, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    Perfect for this season! Oh my, we eat tomato soup all the time but I am ashamed to say it is never homemade (though I do make from-scratch soup often, it just is never tomato!). I love your recipe – that list of ingredients so obviously makes for a delicious soup. Come hot weather or cold.

    • Domenica February 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

      Ooh. I wonder what the tomato soup in Nantes is like…Is it like this version or something completely different? Do tell, cherie! xo

  8. Wendy Read February 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    OK, I am making this soup right now 🙂 Added celery and garlic and used vegetable broth–can’t wait to see how delish this will be, thank you so much for the inspiration!

    • Domenica February 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

      Wow ~ you really are making it right now. I thought about adding both those ingredients, especially the celery because celery and tomato belong together, don’t they. But truth be told I got lazy. Let me know how it turns out, Wendy, and thanks for stopping by!

  9. Frank @Memorie di Angelina February 3, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I love these simple dishes. And I’m with you—I don’t think I can go a day in Wintertime without at least one bowl of soup.

    PS: I’ll say one thing about this freak weather, my lawn has never looked greener… ;=) Of course, there’s snow on the ground today.

    • Domenica February 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Alas, Frank, I can’t say the same thing about my lawn. But it’s my own darn fault. I don’t pay enough attention to it. Are you a gardener?

  10. Roz February 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Nothing like a delicious bowl of cream of tomato soup, even in 71 degrees! It was very warm down here in SC too and now back down to normal. I’m so glad to have found your blog through Ciao Chow Linda’s blog. I had read your comment about your chitarra from your mother. My parents gave me my first chitarra this past fall during a trip to Italy and I will cherish it forever.

    Roz (from ‘la bella vita’)

  11. Roz February 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I’m now following your blog on RSS and on Facebook so I can continue to follow your posts.

    Bye again,

    • Domenica February 4, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Welcome Roz! Thank you for stopping by. Were you in Abruzzo this past summer? Would love to know where! I think I’m going to take Linda’s advice and have my mother’s chitarra re-strung. I’d love to be able to use it. Thanks for following. Looking forward to getting to know you. Cheers, D

      • Roz February 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

        HI Domenica,

        This fall I was in Emilia-Romagna to visit my family, in Roma, Tuscana, Venezia, Napoli, and Amalfi (not in that order). My parents surprised me with a chitarra for being their ‘taxi-driver’ in Italy. I love it! So nice to meet you!

        • Domenica February 17, 2013 at 9:17 am #

          What a lovely gift, Roz. Have you used it yet? My mother recently gave me her chitarra. It’s in pretty delicate condition, but I remember she used to use it to make traditional maccheroni alla chitarra. Linda (our mutual friend Ciao Chow Linda) told me where I can get it restrung, so I may do that. Let me know how your maccheroni turn out.


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