Ina Garten's Simple Way To Add Cheesy Crunch To Your Soup

In the '80s, Campbell Soup Company ran the slogan "Soup is good food." And that it most certainly is — warming, satisfying, and easy to cook in big batches in a single pot, what isn't to love about a good soup? 

Of course, soup is a liquid-based dish, and often includes vegetables, grains, legumes, and meat ingredients that have become soft and even mushy from their long, slow cooking. To add textural variation and flavor to soup, and aid in elevating its humble presentation, a crunchy topping is often added to the dish. Think clam chowder with oyster crackers, French onion soup with bread, pho with crisp bean sprouts, and sesame seeds in ramen.

Often, soup is served with bread or rolls on the side for dipping: You can soak up the goodness and savor your soup to the last drop in the bottom of the bowl. But there's another form of bready soup topping that's beloved by Ina Garten, who cooks up some of the most comforting of comfort foods in the celebrity chef space. As the fairy godmother of all things rich, cheesy, and creamy, her hack will make all your soup dreams come true.

Serve your soup with croutons

On the Instagram page of Williams Sonoma, Ina Garten is tagged in a post showcasing her Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons. This recipe takes the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup pairing and gently deconstructs it, which means you don't have to pause to slurp your soup or dip your sandwich. Each bite is crispy, cheesy, and creamy all at once, with the nutty flavor of Gruyere cheese, savory San Marzano tomatoes, and a hint of saffron. The croutons, like bread for dipping, soak up the soup and do the work for you.

Chef Garten utilizes a similar concept in her chicken pot pie soup with puff pastry croutons. Her basic croutons recipe can be used for a wide variety of applications — you can use them to dress up a casserole or make a stuffing, and of course, they can also be used to top soups like her East Hampton Clam Chowder and salads like Caesar salad with parmesan croutons and Caesar salad with pancetta. Perhaps her most decadent crouton recipe is buttery brioche croutons, which sound so good we doubt they'll even make it to whatever dish they're intended for without being snacked on first.

More cooking with croutons

You might hesitate to call Ina Garten's grilled cheese cubes of delight true croutons since they're more like tiny, toasty sliders. Taste Atlas explains that traditional croutons (from the French word croûte, for crust) are twice-baked or fried bread. MasterClass reminds us that making croutons is a great way to use up stale bread or buns, from baguettes to ciabattas and beyond. To make her grilled cheese croutons, Garten brushes them with butter and grills them on a panini press, and we agree with Williams Sonoma — it's pure genius, and actually puts the "grilled" back into a sandwich that's usually made in a pan these days.

Croutons are an easy, kid-friendly thing to make with just a few ingredients, and there's so much you can do with them. Why not try Garten's stellar chicken chili or "16-bean" pasta e fagioli with cornbread croutons from Southern Living? If you're looking to expand your crisp topping horizons, make Garten's parmesan and thyme crackers and crumble them into her chicken soup or atop her mac and cheese, or use them as breading for pork chops and chicken. Now you know how to fancify classic grilled cheese and tomato soup, and put yesterday's bread to work in today's meal. Pair crunchy and creamy and make the Barefoot Contessa proud.