It took a few tries to get this soup balanced, but it is now one of our favorite recipes - especially when served with a grilled cheese sandwich. If you don't save/freeze the rinds from your Parmesan cheese - you should start. The rind (removed before serving) will lend a rich kick to any savory broth. Parmesan rinds are often for sale at fancier cheese counters. Tomato puree seems to come in jars/cans anywhere from 24 to 29 ounces. Use what you can find at your market. (I like Mutti or Organico Bello brands.) Make the soup vegetarian or vegan with simple substitutions/omissions.
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or substitute vegetable broth)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 stem fresh basil
10 black peppercorns
1 small (1-2 inches) Parmesan rind (optional)
24 ounces tomato puree
Kosher salt, to taste (I used 1 teaspoon)
Optional finishes: 1/4 to 1/3 cup cream or half-and-half
Optional garnishes: Fresh basil, cream, or croutons
Place the stock, garlic, onion, celery, bay, basil, peppercorns and Parmesan rind in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then slightly cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid and let cool slightly for 15 minutes. Strain the soup stock through a sieve into a medium sauce pan - you should have just over one cup of stock. Discard the solids.
Pour the tomato puree into the reserved stock. Stir and taste for salt. Add salt, if necessary. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated up to two days (or frozen for up to three months) before heating to serve.
To serve, heat the soup to a simmer. If using, stir-in cream or half-and-half, and garnish as desired. Serve.
Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a soup course.