In the best of all possible worlds, we would waltz out to our gardens, pluck a dozen luscious, slightly over-ripe plum tomatoes from our thriving vines (growing in certified organic compost, etc.), throw them together with twelve other locally-sourced, heirloom herbs and vegetables to make zuppa. I, however, don’t live in best of all possible worlds, and canned tomatoes are workhorses in my kitchen; in season, home-canned tomatoes are thoroughbreds.
This recipe is quite simple, easily a basis for any number of great soups. Finely dice a small white onion; you want about a cup of root. Put a scant tablespoon or so of oil—olive oil is fine, of course, but that puts a stamp on your variants—in a 2-quart pan, add the onion, and cook on a low heat until the onions are soft and translucent. This, children, is called “sweating,” and you do not want the vegetable to brown much, if at all. To this, add two cups of good, flavorful chicken broth. Increase heat and let simmer for about fifteen minutes or so. Add 6 ounces of tomato paste and a 14-ounce can of canned tomatoes. I wiggle a steak knife around in the can or jar to chop the tomatoes up a bit before adding them to the pot. Let this stew 30 minutes or so. Check salt before serving.