Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

Tomato soup gets a whole lot more fun with grilled cheese croutons.

If ever there was a food that transports us back to childhood with just one sip, it’s tomato soup.

I remember digging a spoon into a deep bowl of that cheerful orange-red, velvety soup as an after-school snack, alongside a stack of saltine crackers. I remember yearning for it on rainy days, especially. And I remember it as the perfect pick-me-up sure to cure any teenage funk.

Of course, back then, my tomato soup did come out of a can.

Now, leave it to Food Network Star Ina Garten to come up with a homemade version of that beloved staple so many of us grew up on. Hers is decidedly more grown-up, yet still maintains the heart and soul we all love about the canned kind.

“Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons” is from her latest cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof”

Her tomato soup has that touch of sweetness we all love about the canned version, plus so much more. Garten adds saffron to give the soup that wonderful warmth-from-within flavor. She also adds orzo and a touch of heavy cream to give the soup more substance and body.

The best part? The croutons, of course. You make essentially a grilled cheese sandwich in a panini press with grated Gruyere. After the sandwich emerges golden and crusty, you cut it up into bite-sized pieces and scatter them over each bowl of soup. The bread gets a little soft and the cheese gets gooey in the hot soup. It’s sure to make you feel like a kid all over again.

To think I used to settle for just crackers in my tomato soup.

Not any more.

Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

(Serves 4 to 6)

3 tablespoons good olive oil

3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

4 cups chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

Large pinch of saffron

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup orzo

1/2 cup heavy cream

Grilled Cheese Croutons (see recipe below)

In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add garlic, and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

(Serves 4 to 6)

4 (1/2-inch thick slices country white bread)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat a panini grill. Place four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.

Grill sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

From “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” by Ina Garten

More Soup Recipes to Try: Cauliflower Soup with Aged Cheddar & Mustard Croutons by Heidi Swanson

And: Chicken Meatball Soup by Mary Sue Milliken

And: Manhattan Bay Scallop Chowder with Fennel by Melissa Clark

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  • It looks amazing! This soup must taste really wonderful.



  • Perfect timing as i just looked out the window to realize the sunshine from this weekend has left us. If ever there were a time for soup and crouts, this would be it. Lovely photos, as usual.

  • She has great recipes. Filing this to the must try list. 🙂

  • i am not too fond of the canned soups. i find they tasty very artificial plus i have heard they are not really good for us. so, i enjoy making soups at home. your tomato soup looks incredible… just look at that BEAUTIFUL COLOR! I can sure have a bowl of that for lunch right now…lol

  • Love the tomato soup! I have very little time to cook during weekdays so easy and delicious recipes like this get a huge plus on my book. Thanks for sharing~!

  • I never really grew up with tomato soup (we were more cream of mushroom people at my household) but the grilled cheese croutons really sound fun for this adult version. (But I think next time you should cut your grilled cheese into donut shape for better dunking! 😉

  • MMMMM! What a tasty combo! I love the special topped croutons! Hahahaha:)

    I need that soup right now!

  • grilled cheese croutons are such a great idea. i love the chopped onions in this version, too!

  • Ben: We had plenty of cream of mushroom in our house when I was growing up, too. My Mom would add canned clams to it to create her version of clam linquine. It was a family favorite. 😉

  • You had me at Grilled Cheese Croutons! How delicious.

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  • I’m a big fan of Ina Garten and her recipes; and you can’t beat the classic grilled cheese/tomato soup combination! Love the twist with the grilled cheese croutons.

  • I have made this soup and it was delicious.

  • anne marie corazzini

    can this soup be made the day before serving

  • Anne Marie: I think you could make the base of the soup a day ahead. But I would wait to add the orzo and cream until the day you are eating it. Leaving the orzo in the soup overnight will probably result in the pasta soaking up a lot of the soup, and making it much thicker than you might want it. Hope that helps. Happy cooking! It’s a great soup.

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  • I had a huge crop of tomatoes this year and made two favorites: a fra diavolo sauce and tomato soup. My soup ingredients are pretty much the same as yours, except I used sour cream instead of heavy cream and added half chicken broth and half milk. Also, I blended most of the tomatoes before cooking them and added a couple of small diced tomatoes for texture. There really is nothing like ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden, instead of canned. I loved watching you on the food network, but haven’t seen you there for awhile. I hope that’s just my not catching you when you’re on.

  • What if you don’t have a panini press?

  • Renee: You can just use a cast-iron pan to cook the panini. Just apply pressure with a spatula — or a weight of some sort — then flip over, and repeat. Enjoy!

  • Delicious! Even my teen enjoyed it. We didn’t have saffron and I had to use whole milk but still great.

  • Lu Ann: So glad to hear the soup was a whole family-pleaser! It really is delicious.

  • If I wanted plain tomato soup (I prefer a classic rather than creamy) is there any change other than just not adding the cream and orzo? Will the soup be thick enough?

  • Dave: If you omit the cream and orzo, the soup will definitely be on the thinner side. You might try adding more diced canned tomatoes without their juices. That might add a little more body.

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  • Wonder if you could use coconut milk?

  • Hi Rachel: You probably could use coconut milk. The flavor might be a touch sweeter, and the coconut taste might be slightly evident in the finished soup. But nothing wrong with that at all. I think it would be delicious.

  • I love Ina Garten’s recipes, hands-down. Loved this soup and grilled cheese crouton recipe. We omitted the orzo as we follow a low-carb diet. Used a low-carb bread for the grilled cheese.

    However, 1 TBSP of salt seemed WAY to much for my taste (and I love salt). I’d start with 1 tsp and add from there. It was a great comfort food mid-week from crazy work days. Thanks for posting.

  • Hi Kim: So glad you enjoyed this tomato soup. You should definitely always salt to your own personal taste. My guess is the 1 tablespoon of salt makes sense when using the orzo, as the pasta will soak it up and become better seasoned that way. This soup is comfort in a bowl, especially at this time of year. Enjoy!

  • How much is a large pinch of saffron?

  • Hi Debbie: Technically, it’s about 1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon, but really, you can just grab a random amount with two fingers and just use that. It just depends how much saffron you want to part with since it’s not an inexpensive spice. 😉 Hope that helps. Enjoy the soup!

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  • I would like to serve this for a luncheon, but would like to do as much as possible the night before. Would it work to make the soup (without the cream), the orzo and the croutons the night before, and store them in the fridge overnight? Then the day of the event, I would reheat the soup, add the orzo and cream, and toast the croutons briefly in the toaster oven before adding them to the soup to serve?

  • Hi Andi: I think that should work. However, I might cook the orzo longer initially, since you will have cooled it overnight and stopped the cooking process before adding it to the soup instead of adding it directly after boiling when it still has some residual heat. Hope that helps. It’s such a delicious soup. Enjoy!

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