A grilled cheese sandwich is a good quick lunch, but a little tomato soup on the side (for dipping and sipping) makes it feel like a proper meal. There is nothing wrong with heating up a can of Amy’s, but I am far more likely to have a few cans of tomato paste — rather than full-fledged soup — stocked in my pantry at any given moment.
The flavour-to-price ratio you get with tomato paste is hard to beat. For roughly 99 cents ($1.34) a can, tomato paste provides you with a concentrated tomato product packed with deep tomato flavour. For another dollar (or sometimes less) you can buy some broth. Dilute the paste with the broth, and you have soup.
I have, of course, refined the process a tiny bit more than that. I cook the tomato paste before adding any liquid to give it a deeper, darker flavour, and finish the soup with heavy cream to give it a more voluptuous body. There’s also a little salt and sugar involved, but you can get even fancier with the seasonings if you desire.
The following recipe makes enough soup for one person, but you can scale it up if you like. (Save any leftover paste for pasta, or rice, or a Bloody Mary.) To make it, you will need:
Half a can of tomato paste (about 5 tablespoons)
1 cup broth of your choice (you will probably not use all of it)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if your broth is very salty)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Optional: Garlic powder, onion powder, MSG, white pepper, oregano, or any other herb or spice you like; season to taste
Add the paste to a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until it darkens in colour and starts sticking to the pan. Keep it moving, spreading it out and scraping it up with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula, so it doesn’t burn. Once it has darkened a shade or two, add 1/2 a cup of broth and whisk until smooth. Add salt and sugar, then whisk in more broth until the soup is as thick or as thin as you like it. Remove from the heat, whisk in a tablespoon of cream, and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve with your finest grilled cheese sandwich.