A sharp tomato soup

Whenever you see Roma tomatoes in the market you know it is deep summer. These are the luscious variety used for thousands of years by Italians for pasta sauces. They are much denser in the flesh and seem to have less water content, and so more flavour, than the usual table tomatoes. They also ripen later, so, I guess, take in more of the sun. They usually arrive and depart from market in those old wooden fruit boxes which we used to turn into billy carts. They grow low to the deck and are usually dusty and even muddy. They are just about always left to ripen on the bush, as they have rather solid, protective skins. All this gives them a certain rustic authenticity. They are also usually very cheap.

I love them, any of a million ways, but especially as a rich, acidic tomato soup. I once gave this recipe to a friend who took it to Italy. The Italians loved it too.

8 Roma tomatoes, skinned — Just cut an X in the end opposite the stem and toss into boiling water for about 20 seconds. Remove, plunge in cold water, and the skin will come away easily.

2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup virgin olive oil

2 onions

2 chillies, sliced finely

2 cloves garlic, peeled

20 basil leaves


Chop the tomatoes in half, sprinkle with salt, and cover with the oil. Mix them together with your fingers.


Cook the onions, chillies and garlic gently in a little oil until the onions soften, then add the tomato and oil mix, and slowly bring the lot to the boil.


Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have all but given up the ghost, then add the basil leaves. Cook for another few minutes, mixing through the basil.


Remove from the heat and put the mix through a mouli or a whizzer. Test the seasoning. You are likely to need more salt.


When you are ready to serve, bring the soup to the boil, whisking boldly. This soup does not keep all that well, but then I have never really needed to bother too much about that.


Serve with toast, smeared with butter mixed with chopped basil leaves.

WINE: This is a wine killer of a dish. If in doubt, serve full-bodied sherry. Amontillado or oloroso. The Aussie sherry makers of note are Seppelt, McWilliam’s and Mildara. Go for the top shelf — they are still ridiculously cheap.