This easy tomato soup from Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa), made with canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, stock, orzo, cream, and topped with grilled cheese croutons, is as simple and comforting as soup gets.
Ina Garten (perhaps better known as The Barefoot Contessa) dubs this recipe “Easy Tomato Soup” and it’s no lie. It comes together from scratch with barely more effort than heating up some Campbell’s—and we don’t think we explain how what results is way worth that teensy added investment. She serves it with the ingenious embellishment of grilled cheese croutons, which is essentially tending to your inner 7-year-old in the most satisfying way we know how.–Renee Schettler Rossi
“I had thought that I’d never get a good homemade tomato soup again because I can’t get a decent tomato up here in snow country and can’t grow one either! But I was wrong. This soup with the San Marzano canned tomatoes was excellent! We loved it!”–Anne S.
Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup FAQs
I don’t have a panini press. Can I still make these croutons?
You can! Essentially, these croutons are a grilled cheese sandwich that can be made any way you choose. A panini grill does compact them and you’ll find they don’t come apart easily. You can cook them, as our tester Anna Scott did, in a skillet with another, smaller skillet on top to “smoosh them down”. When it works, it works.
What is saffron?
The dried stamen from crocus that grows mostly in Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India, saffron has a distinctive aroma and flavor that adds an unmistakable je ne sais quoi to a dish. Since it’s harvested entirely by hand, it’s also a bit of a luxury. It’s best stored in a cool, dry, dark place in an airtight container. Saffron can also be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
I like a smooth soup. Can I use my immersion blender here?
Garten’s version creates a blissfully chunky bowlful of tomatoes, orzo, and onions. If you’re looking for the more old-school version of a creamy tomato soup, you can purée it before adding the orzo. Either way, it’s perfection on a blustery night.
Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups (2 onions) chopped yellow onions
- 1 tablespoon (3 cloves) minced garlic
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- One (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes preferably San Marzano
- Large pinch saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or less to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup orzo uncooked (optional)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Grilled Cheese Croutons
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes and their juices, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt (or, if you prefer, start with 2 teaspoons), and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and then lower the heat and gently simmer for 15 minutes.
- If using the orzo, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes, until almost but not quite completely al dente. Drain the orzo and add it to the soup.
- Stir the cream into the soup, return it to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. (You can refrigerate the soup and gently reheat it before serving.)
- Serve the soup hot with the grilled cheese croutons scattered on top or, if you have a picky eater who doesn't like things to touch, simply serve the croutons on the side.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
In my family, this is always how we serve our grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. There’s really nothing better than a bite-sized piece of perfectly grilled sandwich soaked through with tomato soup. I’ve never made my own soup, but that’s all changed now. The flavor of the soup is fantastic. It’s rich, tomatoey, and a little bit sweet from those lovely golden brown onions.
I knocked the tablespoon of salt down to 2 teaspoons since I’m a bit sensitive to sodium. Since the sandwich soaks up quite a bit of the liquid part of the soup, the solid parts in the soup are kind of left behind in an oniony/orzo-y slurry. Maybe a buzz from an immersion blender would do the soup some good for the chunky texture-averse, like my husband.
Oh, one more thing: I don’t have a panini grill. I made the sandwiches on my ancient griddle and they were just fine.
As my husband’s 107-year-old grandma would say, “This is deeeelicious!” I was concerned that the tomato soup was going to be too thin, but after adding the orzo, the soup becomes so luscious, thick, and satisfyingly wonderful. The Gruyère croutons were a huge hit and worked beautifully with the soup.
If you use homemade chicken stock, your salt level should be fine, but if you use store-bought, be judicious about adding the amount of salt suggested in the recipe. The soup still tastes great the next day, and I’m sure the day after that.
Make it and enjoy!
MmMm good—that’s what this easy tomato soup is. The croutons put it over the top!
I like the extra info about the number of chopped onions and minced garlic, as my onions and garlic were obviously a different size from the ones they used. I used 2 teaspoons of salt in the soup and the extra 2 teaspoons as directed in the cooking water for the orzo. I also smoothed out the soup with an immersion blender before adding in the orzo.
Ina Garten’s easy tomato soup is a keeper. Not sure how much difference the saffron made, but I had some so I used it.
Light-years better than anything you’ll find in a can. This easy tomato soup recipe yields a hearty, rich, and chunky dish. When I make this again I’ll probably use less cream: a 1/2 cup of cream didn’t seem like that much, to begin with, but went a long, long way in the finished product.
I didn’t have a panini press so I made the grilled cheese croutons the old-fashioned way. They still tasted delicious, although some fell apart in the soup (I didn’t mind).
This tomato soup recipe definitely lived up to its name for being easy.
I didn’t use the full tablespoon of salt because I had to use canned chicken stock. Because I was using low-sodium stock, I did put in 2 teaspoons, but it was definitely too much. Next time, I may cut back to a teaspoon or leave it out entirely until the end. Otherwise, everything was great about the soup.
Cutting up the grilled cheese sandwiches into “croutons” was so smart—why dirty up the hands with butter from the sandwich? I’m going to try fire-roasted tomatoes next time for a different flavor!
This tomato soup is delicious and easy! I followed the recipe exactly except for only adding 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the soup. The soup turned out creamy with a nice tomato flavor and I loved the addition of the orzo.
After adding the orzo, I realized that I could’ve used my handheld blender to reduce the number of tomato pieces that some members of my family may have shied away from. The grilled cheese croutons were a big hit too. They were delicious in the soup and added a nice buttery crunch. Delicious weeknight meal on a chilly night!
Ina Garten’s easy tomato soup is a very, very simple recipe to follow that’s filled with taste. Absolutely amazing, and the idea of the grilled cheese croutons is indeed brilliant. I think next time I’ll actually make even more of these croutons, as my toddler ate almost half of them prior to having the soup!
Cannot say enough about this recipe. The taste of tomato was fabulous—it felt creamy yet it was nice to feel the bits of tomatoes. I added the full tablespoon of salt and that was absolutely perfect. Would certainly not add any less.
What a fabulous idea this is! We all know that grilled cheese and tomato soup are a cherished pair, and this soup recipe brings them together in a clever (and most delicious) way. The grilled cheese on white bread, slathered with butter and Gruyère cheese, was outstanding. I don’t have a panini maker, but I just used a skillet and another smaller skillet on top of the sandwich to sort of smoosh it down—worked just fine!
As for the rich, soul-warming soup, I love the addition of saffron here. That really gives a depth of flavor that’s quite unique. I only used 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and it was plenty salty, especially when you had a crouton on your spoon as well. I’d leave out the orzo. It didn’t taste bad, but with the croutons on top I thought that extra starch wasn’t needed. Also, I’d maybe purée the onions into the soup to make it have a smooth consistency like traditional tomato soup.
Lastly, a sprinkle of parsley or chives on top of the soup looks great, just for a bit of color.
In a very short amount of time, with not much effort at all, you end up with a very nice pot of soup from this recipe. And then there are those croutons. Would genius be too strong a word for creating croutons out of a grilled cheese sandwich? Definitely, a bowl (or two) of comfort food, to not only satisfy your hunger but to make you feel better.
I tend to really like soups that are more or less purées, to have the flavor of the vegetables really shine. I want the vegetable showcased to have an intense flavor profile. Because of this, I usually cut back on the amount of broth that I add to a soup. I added the 4 cups of chicken stock called for in the recipe to test it as written. The soup was delicious; however, the next time I make it, I’ll start by adding 2 cups of stock and then see how it tastes before adding any more. That’s what I do with another tomato soup recipe by the same author. The saffron adds an interesting flavor to the soup, although I’m not sure if I’ll add it again.
Personally, I don’t think that the soup needs the orzo, but my husband really liked the texture that it added to the soup. Bottom line: no major adjustments, very good results, well worth making.
While the concept of this recipe sounded pretty amazing (ummm…grilled cheese croutons?), I was also pretty skeptical. Would I really be able to taste the saffron? Isn’t a smooth tomato soup way better than chunky? Turns out, it was delicious. The saffron came through loud and clear and the texture of the well-seasoned orzo and the caramelized onions was fantastic. It was easy and delicious, especially with the decadent little croutons. Like grown-up snow day grub!
I think a teaspoon of brown sugar added with the tomatoes would go a long way. It could use that subtle hint of sweetness. And I like more black pepper than the recipe called for so I ended up using 1 1/2 teaspoons. As always, you need to be really careful with the saffron. I’m not sure a “large” pinch was necessary. I wish I had actually measured the amount I used, because I’d recommend a smidgen less. One last tip, towards the end of cooking the onions, just an occasional stir doesn’t cut it so keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn.
I was delighted to see this as a test recipe since I had already made this one once and my daughter has made it several times. I first learned about putting grilled cheese croutons in tomato soup from a Cat Cora recipe and thought the idea was genius since I love dipping my grilled cheese into tomato soup.
I love the addition of orzo in this version and the saffron brings it to a new level; but I must confess it’s really good without the saffron, as I’ve made it that way, too. The grilled cheese croutons complement the soup to a T. I’ll definitely be making it again.
I did use the tablespoon of salt the first time I made it and it wasn’t overly salty but it’s also good with a little less. Most recipes suggest salting to taste anyway and that makes sense, so use your own judgment as to how much salt you like, as if it’s not enough you can always add more.
This soup is delicious, easy to make, and pretty handsome in the bowl. The grilled cheese croutons just make it even more delicious. I followed the recipe to the letter, using the 1 tablespoon salt in the soup and the 2 teaspoons in the water for the orzo. I had just heard right before I made the soup that canned San Marzano tomatoes are really sweet and need more than the regular amount of salt that you’d use in a recipe. It was fun to make and even more fun to eat!
While I wouldn’t call this the easiest tomato soup I’ve ever made, it certainly was flavorful. You can taste a hint of saffron, but I don’t think it’s worth going to the store for it if you don’t already have it in your pantry. The next time I make this, I think I’ll purée the soup before adding the pasta. The grilled cheese croutons were certainly a highlight of the dish.
The soup was easy to do. I didn’t add the 1 tablespoon of salt; instead, a teaspoon and a half worked for me. I quite liked the flavor and the texture. The croutons turned out alright, but I prefer plain croutons and prefer to grate the cheese over the soup. Definitely will add this to my repertoire of soups.
Originally published January 12, 2021