When it comes to food, tomatoes are one of the most versatile on the market. Tomatoes have so many different uses, aside from just chopping them up and putting them into a nice garden salad. Two of the most popular uses of tomatoes are using them for tomato sauce or even tomato soup. While the two look similar in color and have the same base ingredient, they are incredibly different in terms of use and dish preparation.

Delicious homemade tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on rye.
Tomato soup is often paired with grilled cheese.


What is Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is a liquid dish that is made from tomatoes that are blended or pureed. Many other spices and ingredients are added to the tomatoes in order to create the soup. Onions, garlic, herbs, and other spices usually make up the additives of tomato soup in order to create a well-balanced flavor pallet in the soup.

The History

Tomato soup actually dates all the way back to ancient civilizations, all the way back to the 16th century. However, modern tomato soup was brought into popularity by Dr. John Dorrance, a chemist who worked for the Campbell Soup Company.

What is Tomato Soup Used For

Tomato soup can be a dish in itself, as an appetizer, or even as an entree. When served at a restaurant, tomato soup is usually given with bread or crackers on the side, sometimes even croutons. Another use for tomato soup is a dip. Many individuals like to use tomato soup as a dip for a grilled cheese sandwich. Tomato soup is often used as a base for other recipes, as well. For example, using it as a base for a marinade of meat or chicken. It can also be used as a base for many other types of soups, such as minestrone soup.

How to Make Tomato Soup

You will need to gather your ingredients together before beginning the cooking process.

  • Butter 
  • Yellow onion 
  • Garlic 
  • Crushed tomatoes (a can is fine)
  • Chicken stock 
  • Basil 
  • Sugar 
  • Black pepper 
  • Salt
  • Heavy cream (for vegan recipes you can use cashew cream)

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sautee the onions until cooked and fragrant. When cooked until soft, add fresh garlic to the pan. Add in the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, basil (chopped), sugar, salt, and black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, allowing the soup to simmer. Once the soup is hot, you can stir in heavy cream to thicken it (optional).

Tomato soup, vegan dish on white.
Tomato soup is both an appetizer and an entree.


What is Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a thicker liquid that is used as a topping or a base for many different types of recipes. The sauce is made from cooked tomatoes. It is used in dishes all over the world and can come in many different varieties and types. Some tomato sauces are plain, made from just cooked tomatoes, while others are made with spices and herbs. Tomato sauce is a staple in many kitchens, specifically Italian kitchens.

The History

The history behind tomato sauce dates all the way back to ancient civilizations in South America. Many people from the Aztec culture used tomatoes in their dishes, as the tomato plant was a staple there and was outsourced from South America. Many European explorers ended up bringing the tomato plant back to Europe from their explorations, which then led to tomatoes being used in Italian kitchens. Over time, many Italian chefs began to use tomatoes in their kitchens, primarily for sauces and similar dishes. In America, Chef Ettore Boiardi brought tomato sauce into popularity.

Italian tomato sauce with basil, onion and garlic on white wooden table.
Tomato sauce originated in South America.

©Zuzana Fajmonova/Shutterstock.com

What Tomato Sauce is Used For

Tomato sauce is used for a variety of dishes and things in the kitchen. Many times, tomato sauce is used in combination with other ingredients to add to a dish, sauce up a dish, or even as a side dipping sauce.

Pasta Sauce

Tomato sauce is primarily used to top pasta dishes in a plethora of ways. Aside from just having pasta with tomato sauce alone, tomato sauce tends to work as a base for a majority of pasta sauces. Examples of this include marinara sauce, bolognese sauce, and even vodka sauce.

Pizza Sauce

Pizza is a staple of many people's diets. Tomato sauce is the base topping for pizza, splashed right on top of the dough. Many pizza sauces are straight-up tomato sauce, while other pizza sauces are mixed with herbs and different spices.

Stews and Chilis

Tomato sauce is both a base and an additive in stews and chilis. For example, many people who make beef chili use tomato sauce in the chili to give it flavor and also thicken it up. There are often combinations of ingredients like beans and vegetables to give it more flavor and variety of texture.

Dips and Condiments

Who doesn't love mozzarella sticks? Many times, tomato sauce can be used as a dip or a condiment on the side of things. Mozzarella sticks and tomato sauce go hand-in-hand together. As well, garlic bread or cheesy bread can also be dipped into tomato sauce as a condiment.

How to Make Tomato Sauce

Making your own tomato sauce may seem stressful, but it's relatively easy if you have all of the right ingredients. You will need:

  • Two cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Garlic cloves
  • Onion

To start, heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Next, add the onions and sautee them until they are transparent and cooked through. Add in the chopped garlic to flavor. Following this, add the crushed tomatoes along with the juices from the cans. Stir the sauce so that you can break up the chunks. Add in the salt, pepper, sugar, and any other spices you choose. Many people use oregano and basil in their tomato sauce. When you stir this in, lower the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook the sauce for around 30 minutes, stirring continuously.

The Bottom Line

Tomato sauce and tomato soup, while both tomato products, are very different. Tomato soup is used as a meal or an appetizer, as a standalone. However, tomato sauce is used alongside other food products, or as a sauce and base for primary dishes. Both are created out of tomatoes, but prepared differently, as well.

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