Creamy tomato soup is a rainy-day favorite, but can it really be made without the cream?  Most recipes for tomato soup pack in so much of the stuff that they’re more pink than red, which is fitting because missing too is rich, tangy tomato flavor.

This tomato soup recipe from America’s Test Kitchen uses a surprise ingredient to replace the cream. It starts with canned tomatoes for their convenience and year-round availability and added a touch of brown sugar to balance their acidity. The soup tasted good, but it seemed thin without the swirl of cream. Looking to give our soup luxurious body, we turned to a surprise ingredient: slices of white bread. Torn into pieces and added to the pot, the bread disintegrated and blended into the soup like magic, thickening it without muting the vibrant tomato flavor. Finally, a touch of fruity extra-virgin olive oil added some welcome richness. If half of the soup fills your blender by more than two-thirds, process the soup in three batches. For an even smoother soup, pass the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer after blending it.

Serves 6 to 8

• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
• 1 onion, chopped fine
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 bay leaf
• Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
• 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
• 3 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
• 1 tablespoon packed organic brown sugar
• 2 cups vegetable broth
• 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
• Salt and pepper
• ¼ cup minced fresh chives

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, and pepper flakes, if using, and cook until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash tomatoes until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in bread and sugar and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
  2. Transfer half of soup to blender. Add 1 tablespoon oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Return pureed soup to clean pot.
  3. Stir in broth and brandy, if using. Return soup to boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling individual bowls with chives and drizzling with extra oil.