Sarabeth Levine - Goddess of Bakedom
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Soup-bowl.jpgFall is here and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I am at my country hide-away, looking out the window at the remaining orange colored leaves on our trees. Like a streak of lightening, my mind transports back in time to thirty years ago when we opened Sarabeth's Kitchen to make my family's secret recipe–the Orange-Apricot Marmalade. It was around the time of our first Thanksgiving at the bakery on Amsterdam Avenue in 1981. We had recently opened the bakery and people in the neighborhood were excited about our shop. Bill (Mr. Sarabeth, as he calls himself) would arrive every evening at the same time to remind me that it was time to come home. Often we would dash around the corner to Zabar's to pick up a delicious dinner, which was carefully packed in a sturdy white bag with its bold, bright orange graphics printed on each side. On one of those evenings, walking home on our usual route past the shop, we stopped for a last minute peek. There were two people looking in the window at the large display of orange-apricot-marmalade. We moved closer to eavesdrop on their conversation and this is what we heard. The woman said to her friend, "A jam store in Manhattan?" She harrumphed, "She'll never make it!" Bill and I looked at each other in surprise, shrugged our shoulders and went home to eat our dinner. Blink–its thirty years later and we proved her to be wrong.

I really had no intention of telling this story today. Those magnificent colored leaves just whisked me away. In my previous post I promised to share the recipe for the Velvety Cream of Tomato Soup when I returned from my West Coast book tour. We have been serving this wonderful soup since we first opened that little shop on Amsterdam Avenue— thirty years ago. I am home and here it is. In fact, with the chill in the air, I think I shall make some tonight.  



Makes 10-12 servings servings

I like soup to be hearty and thick, so you can't see through it to the bottom of the bowl. In the photo you will see the Buttermilk Biscuits that accompany the soup at our restaurants. They can be found in my new book, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. Everyone has grown to love this soup and I constantly receive requests for the recipe. So in the spirit of sharing, here is my favorite savory recipe.

COOKS NOTE: The canned tomatoes must be packed in puree, not juice. Also, if you can find diced or crushed tomatoes in puree, that would be great. You will need about 2 (28- ounce cans). Otherwise, use whole tomatoes in puree and crush them as directed in the recipe.  •  To give the soup more texture and dill flavor, I prefer to tear, and not chop the dill.  •  Never add the salt while the soup is cooking, as it will cause it to curdle. If this should happen, combine 1/2-cup milk and 1/2-cup cream, and slowly add to the soup while whisking vigorously.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped 
4 scallions, top green parts only, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Approximately, 3 pounds canned tomatoes, 
in tomato puree (See Cooks Note)
4 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/3 cup dill fronds, torn into tiny sprigs (see Cooks Note)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded white Cheddar cheese, for serving

1.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion, shallots, scallion tops, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture into the top of a double boiler and place over the bottom pot of boiling water. 

2.  Using a wooden spoon, crush the tomatoes into small pieces. Add the crushed tomatoes with the puree, milk, and cream and bring to a simmer, stirring often.   

3.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook, whisking almost constantly, for about 3 minutes, being sure the roux doesn’t brown. Whisk about 1 1/2 cups of the hot tomato mixture into the roux, then pour the roux mixture into the pot of soup and stir until blended..

4.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer about 35 minutes to blend the flavors and thicken. Turn off the heat from the double boiler and add the dill, salt and pepper.   

5.  Serve hot, topping each serving with about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese.  (The soup can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, cooled completely, covered, and refrigerated. The soup will thicken when chilled; while reheating, thin the heated soup with milk to the desired thickness. Do not freeze the soup.)


Photo by Ellen Silverman

Tags: Ellen Silverman , Orange-Apricot Marmalade , Sarabeth's Kitchen , Sarabeths Bakery:From My Hands to Yours , Zabars

Categories: Recipes, Soups


Your Comments

dorie  | November 17, 2010 8:36 AM

A charming story. I have such wonderful memories of that first Sarabeth's and, of course, of the tomato soup. Merci for the recipe.

Your Comments

Laura  | November 19, 2010 7:37 AM

Thanks for posting this recipe. I never even liked Tomato soup until I went to Sarabeths!! It tastes unbelievable and my friends agree. Also quick you have to use whole milk in the recipe or can you use skim milk?

Your Comments

parisbreakfast  | November 19, 2010 8:48 AM

OMG reading about those pumpkin waffles...where does one find them?
Have you thought of opening in Paris?
Paris has NOT heard of YOUR waffles yet.,,just guafres

Your Comments

Sarabeth replied to comment from Laura  | November 20, 2010 6:52 PM

Well, I think you should reach for the whole milk. That is surely enough of a step down in richness. Also, it will be not the luxurious soup you remembered eating at Sarabeth's if you use low-fat or skim milk.

Your Comments

Mama Kelly aka Jia  | November 20, 2010 10:12 PM

Isn't it funny how many memories get attached to the foods we eat or serve? Your recipe looks like it taste just wonderful. WHile my family is used to a different recipe I may break yours out when I'm not in the mood for an all day project

Your Comments

Barbara Pottgen  | December 5, 2010 6:57 PM

Thank you SO MUCH, Sarabeth, for putting the cream of tomato soup on your blog! I enjoyed so much your book signing and baking demo in San Francisco and am totally excited at the prospect of trying my hand at your legendary cream of tomato soup recipe. One question . . . this looks like a recipe for a pretty large portion . . . and I don't know where to get a double boiler that large. Any ideas? Is there an alternative to using a double boiler??? Thanks so much, Sarabeth. I look forward to your or others response. Happy Holidays!

Your Comments

Jackie  | December 28, 2010 1:28 PM

Thanks for sharing the story AND recipe. Why people have to be like that, I'll never understand. I'm grateful for those like you who have the courage to follow their hearts anyway! Lovely book by the way.

Your Comments

Linda  | February 17, 2011 6:14 PM

Hi Sarabeth,
I worked for you back in the 80's, having been baking from your new cookbook, and now am in heaven to find the recipe for your fantastic tomato soup! I'll make it tomorrow to eat with your delicious corn muffins! I'll stop in your bakery in Chelsea the next time I'm in the city and hope to see you again!

Your Comments

Constance  | February 25, 2011 11:56 AM

If you haven't made this, make it NOW!! It is more than delicious! and made the biscuits.. they are to die for! Thank you sarabeth!! I will make this again and again!

Your Comments

Noura  | April 22, 2011 1:55 PM

I would like to ask you, what kind of grated cheese shall I top the soup with? what kind of heavy cream do you use? is there a specific brand?

thanks a lot.

Your Comments

Sarabeth replied to comment from Noura  | April 23, 2011 8:54 AM

We use Cabot White Cheddar at the bakery and restaurants. The heavy cream is not whipping cream. It is called heavy cream, ultra pasteurized. If you can not find regular heavy cream, you can omit the milk and the heavy cream and use half and half for the entire recipe.

Your Comments

Niko  | May 10, 2011 9:43 PM

Hi Sarabeth,

It was great to meet you in your bakery in Chelsea Market yesterday. Thank you so much for the autograph and now your Tomato Soup recipe. My husband and I ate in your store since it was opened on Amsterdem Ave. I always ordered the Tomato Soup. We moved out of Manhattan for quite sometime now, but once every few weeks, we came back to visit and always stopped by your restaurant to eat or buy some baked goods or jam. Are those baked goods your sell in the restaurant baked in house or were delivered from Chelser Market? My husband love your chocolate pudding, can't have enough of it, so thank you again for all the goodies you provide us. Have a great day.

Your Comments

Nicole  | August 6, 2011 9:12 PM

I live in California, and every time I come to NYC I stop in for the delicious tomatoe soup. I first had it 20 years ago and am so happy to see the recipe online so I can make it for my family. Thank you!
One Question... Can I use fresh tomatoes?

Your Comments

Sarabeth replied to comment from Nicole  | August 6, 2011 9:18 PM

Absolutely no fresh tomatoes. It makes the soup curdle. Canned tomatoes in puree only. And remember. Add the salt and seasonings after the soup is finished cooking and the heat source has been turned off.

Your Comments

caroline  | October 28, 2011 1:39 PM

I had the chance to visit New York a few weeks ago. Even with the weekend brunch lineup the soup was worth the wait. I loved it so much I made it for Thanksgiving.

Everyone loved it! I made some homemade cheddar biscuit on the side and we were in heaven. Needless to say, this was our first course, by everyone's second serving we were too full to go through the rest of the meal.

Your Comments

Sally Schmuhl  | November 28, 2011 6:57 AM

Visited the restaurant in Key West and LOVED the tomato
soup as well as your apricot jams.....we live on a fruit farm
and I make peach, concord grape and berry jams to sell at our farm market, but nothing as natural and tasty as the apricot jams. (For the last four years our apricots have frozen; these gems are delicate little babies and there is nothing like a tree-ripened apricot, unless they are being spooned from one of your jam jars!) Purchased your cookbook-lovely pictures; thank you for sharing these amazing recipes! Visited your Chelsea market after the KW experience: felt like I was in heaven. I admire what you have accomplished; thank you for sharing! ME

Your Comments

Katie Bonzer  | October 3, 2012 2:36 PM

You are a godess for posting this recipe. I used to live on Riverside Drive and walk to 80th&Amsterdam for your tomato soup. My husband and I moved to Virginia, it's raining and we were reminiscing about NYC and he will be so suprised to come home to this tonight!

Your Comments

Amanda  | October 27, 2012 10:08 AM

Do you have to use a double broiler?

Your Comments

Lillian  | November 17, 2012 10:06 AM

This is a fabulous soup! I tried it at Sarabeth's in Manhattan and am really happy you shared the recipe. I made it for some friends the other day and was concerned about having too much leftovers, but 5 people pretty much demolished the soup - no leftovers! I have been baking my way through your book and haven't found a recipe that I don't love. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipes.

Your Comments

Debra Green  | November 21, 2012 6:33 PM

Question about the tomato bisque- when reheating: do you need to reheat in a double boiler or can you place the pot on the stovetop on low. Also to thin the soup, can you use 2% for thinning the bisque? Thank you & soup is awesome!

Your Comments

Carol  | December 9, 2012 8:31 AM

I had the chance to visit NY with my husband last september, we came from very far away, we live in Chile.
We had lunch at the restaurant, we havenĀ“t heard of it before. We had the tomato soup it was the best ever tomato soup we ever had.
I bought your fantastic and enlightening book.
So I wanted to thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe and for an outstanding book.

Regards from Chile,

Your Comments

Sarabeth replied to comment from Carol  | December 25, 2012 8:43 AM

So pleased you love my favorite soup. And... the book, happy its part of your collection for many happy return. Wishing you a terrific New Year of baking and cheer.

Your Comments

sharon lane  | February 12, 2013 12:18 PM


I made this soup...turned out great! Quick question: how come it can't be frozen? I'm single and that's A LOT of soup for one person...I'll be eating soup FOREVER...thanks!

Your Comments

Harlean Owens  | February 27, 2013 7:27 PM

My husband and I just returned from our first visit to Key West and our first dinner at Sarabeth's. we joined my husband's brother and his wife who have been visiting Key West for 20 years and have always raved about Sarabeth's, and especially the fabulous tomato soup. Last Saturday night, as we were enjoying said soup in Sarabeth's garden, my sister-in-law said she dreamed about the soup all year. Now I know why! Yummmm!!! So thrilled to have the recipe so I can surprise my sister-in-law long before her 2014 trip to Key West. Thank you SO much for sharing!!

Your Comments

sharon lane  | March 1, 2013 12:20 PM

Can you please tell me why the soup should not be frozen? It's a lot of soup for one person and i ate some EVERY day for more than a week before it was all gone! how long does it keep in the fridge? thanks!

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