Tomato soup is a quintessential American comfort food. Native to western South America and Central America, tomatoes, a member of the nightshade family, did not arrive in Europe till the early 1500s. Bright shiny tomatoes were thought to be poisonous by Europeans. In Europe, tomatoes were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not for consumption.
The first tomato variety to reach Europe was yellow. In Spain and Italy, they were referred to as “pomi d’oro”, meaning “yellow apples“. Italy was the first to embrace and cultivate tomatoes outside South America. The French referred to tomatoes as “pommes d’amour”, or “love apples” and believed they had aphrodisiacal properties.
Campbell Soup Company
With it’s long-standing American comfort food status, tomato soup is just a simple pureed soup and it can be served hot or cold. The first known published tomato soup recipe was mentioned by Eliza Leslie in 1857 in her final publication New Cookery Book.
But in 1869, Joseph Campbell, a fruit merchant, and Abraham Anderson, an icebox manufacturer, formed the business that would eventually become the Campbell Soup Company. And with its creation, tomato soup would never be the same.
Later, in 1897, Campbell made an amazing leap forward when John T. Dorrance, a chemist at the company and nephew of the then-president, invented the concept of condensed soup. He created five varieties, including tomato, which remains one of the top 10 shelf-stable foods sold in U.S. grocery stores today.
Since its creation, Campbell’s tomato soup has become an indispensable fixture in American kitchens and you can even find spice cake recipes made using it. And despite a gradual decline in canned soup consumption, roughly 2 billion of us still purchase a can of Campbell’s tomato soup each year.
There is nothing fancy about tomato soup, but I’m a big fan. The primary ingredient is simply tomatoes, with just a few other simple ingredients added to help enhance the actual tomato flavor. For my tomato soup recipe, good quality tomatoes and chicken stock are the real key. San Marzano is my go-to for this classic comfort food I adore.
You can skip making homemade chicken stock, but invest in the good quality fresh or fresh-frozen kinds available at specialty markets. The rest of the soup ingredients help balance sweetness and acidity, so my best advice, taste as you go and adjust as needed based on your tomatoes and personal preferences.
Commonly served with another American favorite, a grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup reminds me of my childhood, but it is by no means a kid-only soup. Garnish with some fresh chives and toasted pepitas, and this old classic becomes an elegant, memorable soup that’s ready in under an hour.