Short on Time? This Soup Is the World's Fastest Fancy Appetizer

Who has time for a soup course? You do, my friend. You do.

Two bowls of tomato soup
Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto

What transforms an ordinary dinner into a dinner party? Most people assume it's the level of effort — as if somehow the toil and trouble you've taken translates into enjoyment for your guests. But I adhere to the Ina Garten Philosophy of Effortless Entertaining, which stipulates not only that your friends and family shouldn't see you sweat, but that you actually shouldn't. The easier a dinner is to prepare, the more likely that your guests can get to spend time with you (and the less likely you'll be so frazzled that you'll burn the beef or scorch the pasta). But if you still want to put a bit of a swirl on your dinner party menu, may I suggest a first course? A bit of soup, perhaps?

Now I'm not talking about a ladleful of chunky minestrone or a slurp of chicken noodle. For the vibe we're going for, it's all about smoothness, creaminess, and richness. I'm talking about creamy tomato soup. Made from (I kid you not) jarred tomato sauce. Stay with me here as I make my case:

Tomato soup is really just thinned-out tomato sauce

When you think about it, nothing much distinguishes tomato soup from tomato sauce except its degree of thickness. So there's really nothing stopping you from using your favorite jarred tomato sauce (especially one with rich, cheesy notes already built in, like Bertolli Parmesan & Romano with Cracked Black Pepper Sauce) as the foundation for your soup. A 24-ounce jar will make enough soup to serve four.

Combine sauce, broth, and cream

After adding your sauce to your saucepan, it's time to add your liquid. Go for about 3/4 cup of your favorite broth (low-sodium chicken or vegetable varieties work especially well here) for every 3 cups of sauce, along with 1/2 cup of cream, which will give the soup a luxurious texture. Heat over medium until gently simmering, adjusting the salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with abandon

Once you ladle the soup into bowls, feel free to customize. Torn basil or sliced chives are especially delicious here. You could use just a handful of the minutes you saved to make a batch of homemade croutons to sprinkle on top. A swirl of extra-virgin olive oil is never a bad idea, and an extra pop of freshly cracked pepper also looks and tastes terrific. And that's it. You've pulled off a soup course so easy you could make it while drinking a jumbo Cosmo.

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