Rustic Tomato Soup

rustic tomato soup | sunsets on the side

rustic tomato soup | sunsets on the side

Back when I worked for a consumer goods company, the descriptive word we used to wrestle with the most when labeling food was “robust.”  Like, what does that word even mean?  (For the record, technically I guess it means, “strong and healthy“).

People consistently thought it was a super terrific word to describe food, but when we would ask focus groups to tell us what that word meant to them, the answers were usually pretty hilarious.  It was sort of obvious that we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t understand it in the context of food.

Similarly, I struggled when trying to name this soup.  My first draft called it “Pantry Tomato Soup” because that’s the beauty of this recipe: you probably already have everything you need to make it.  But, that made it sound like an instruction to go to your pantry and get out a can of tomato soup, which…wasn’t what I was going for. I love raw tomatoes, I love cooked tomatoes, I love roasted tomatoes, I love tomato sauce, I love homemade tomato soup.  But, I really (really) don’t like canned tomato soup or tomato juice.  Like, I can’t eat them at all.  What is that?  Weird.

So, I went with “rustic” because that’s exactly what it is: simple and uncomplicated.  This soup is thick, it’s rich, and it’s absolutely perfect for grilled cheese dunking.

Hopefully it even makes you feel robust.


rustic tomato soup | sunsets on the side

Rustic Tomato Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Makes: 6 servings
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ¾ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until they are softened and starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  3. Pour in the wine, stir well, and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the wine is slightly reduced.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and basil. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  5. Add the cream cheese, and stir until it melts completely into the soup. Garnish with more fresh basil and serve.


Baked Sausage & Fontina Sandwiches

baked sausage & fontina sandwiches | sunsets on the side

baked sausage & fontina sandwiches | sunsets on the side

These sandwiches.

I remember these sandwiches from when I was a kid.  They were “special occasion” sandwiches in that I knew just about every time they made an appearance, we were going to have company.  My mom made these a lot of nights when she hosted her card club, and she’d serve them on some family holidays, too.  (Random: why doesn’t our generation play more cards)?

baked sausage & fontina sandwich ingredients | sunsets on the side

I always figured she made these for company because they were deliciously awesome (which, they are), but they’re also the perfect thing for entertaining.  They freeze beautifully, so you can make these in anticipation of any event (big football game, perhaps?).  After you make the sandwiches and wrap them in foil, stick them in the freezer instead of the oven.  Then, just pull them out when you need them and throw them straight into the oven to bake.  Or, just make them and bake them.

Prerogative.  It’s yours.

Either way, though, something happens to these babies when they bake.  They go into the oven looking very much like an Italian version of a sloppy joe, but when they come out, the sauce has sort of baked into the bun, and they’ve turned into a melty, saucy, delectable mix of sausage and herbs.

I’ve adapted these just slightly with a different cheese (mom uses mozzarella) and some fresh basil.  Otherwise, these are the original.

baked sausage and fontina sandwiches | sunsets on the side

Baked Sausage & Fontina Sandwiches
Makes: 8 servings
  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage (hot or mild)
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 3 T. finely chopped fresh basil
  • 8 French hamburger buns (or any sturdy roll)
  • 4 oz. fontina, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the sausage and ground chuck in a large, non-stick skillet. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring often and breaking the meat up with your spatula, until it is cooked through (about 10-12 minutes).
  3. Remove from the heat and drain the grease from the pan.
  4. Place the skillet back over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce and oregano, and stir to combine. Simmer until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat, and stir in the basil.
  6. Spoon the meat mixture evenly onto the hamburger buns, top the meat with fontina slices, and then wrap each sandwich in foil.
  7. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.