Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup with Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Winter is all about soups for me. The aroma filling the house when I make it, and knowing I have a whole stock of frozen soups for lazy weeknight dinners. This tomato soup recipe is full of flavor with richness from the roasted garlic, tomatoes and carrots. We served the soup with bacon, cheddar and Dijon mustard grilled cheese sammies. Just typing the words makes me hungry.... starving, actually. Because honestly, what tomato soup is complete without a grilled cheese?

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup
2 1/2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes (or any nice looking variety)
1 28 oz. can San Marzano whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 pound carrots (leaves removed)
1 garlic head (1/4 inch of the head removed and excess paper removed)
1 shallots (diced)
1 medium yellow onion (diced)
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons basil (rough chop)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss carrots, tomatoes and garlic head in olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to foil lined baking sheets and pop in the oven. Remove the carrots after 20 minutes. Let the tomatoes and garlic cook for 35-40 minutes. Don't let them burn though! Cool and remove skins from both the tomatoes and garlic. Give the carrots a rough chop.

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tbsp unsalted butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, crushed red pepper flakes and carrots and cook for another 7 minutes. Add a bit more salt.

Pour all the chicken broth into the pan and raise heat to medium high. Add both the canned and roasted tomatoes. Put the whole roasted garlic cloves (already peeled out of the skin) in to the pan. Add some salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and let cook for 35-40 minutes.

Turn off heat. Add basil to the soup. Puree mixture with an immersion blender or run through a food processor. Stir in the cream. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper.

Bacon, Cheddar and Dijon Grilled Cheese
(ingredients per sandwich)

2 slices smoked bacon
Good quality cheddar cheese (I used 2 years aged)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 slices sourdough bread
unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet, cook the bacon strips for 8-10 minutes, until bacon is cooked. Move bacon to a paper towel lined plate to soak up the grease. Optional: Don't throw away the bacon fat, but use it to grill your sandwiches. I highly recommend doing so.

Assemble sandwiches: Butter one side of both slices of bread. On the other side of one slice, spread the mustard. Add a layer of cheese on top of the mustard, a layer of bacon on top of the cheese, and another layer of cheese on top of the bacon. Bread, mustard, cheese, bacon, cheese, bread.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook the sandwich, buttered side down (obviously), for 4-5 minutes until you see cheese starting to melt. Turn up the heat a little bit to make sure the bread toasts. Flip over to the other side and toast for about 4 more minutes, or until bread is ready.

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