I always find myself in a period of mourning as the air grows crisp and autumn creeps into my life. I love the colorful changing of the leaves and reprise from summer’s hot weather, but I know what’s coming. Soon after autumn comes winter, and with that, I must say goodbye to summer’s fresh tomatoes… until now that I’ve discovered this Easy Tomato and Basil Slow Cooker Stew recipe.
As I bid farewell to my favorite caprese salads (all those slices of juicy tomatoes mingling with garden-fresh basil), I say hello to a new season – soup season. Winter’s weather brings pillowy snow and all my favorite holidays, not to mention the delicious comforting foods that accompany them. I might not be able to enjoy fresh tomatoes, but I definitely will be making the most of soup season.
I usually think of hearty meats when I think of stew – I would never think that canned tomatoes could be the star of a stew. This easy tomato and basil slow cooker stew definitely redefined the category for me. Filled with chunky vegetables and full of flavor, this vegetarian soup is just what meatless Monday ordered!
Use Fresh Tomatoes in the Summertime and Canned in the Wintertime
There was a time that I would never use canned tomatoes. “They’re not fresh,” I would have said, “so they can’t be that good.” Well, I’m here to eat my words – that’s just not true.
Here’s the thing about canned tomatoes: they’re picked and packed at the peak of their freshness, so they taste just like a summer tomato. Unless you live in a state where summer reigns all year round, winter tomatoes will taste different. These tomatoes are picked green on the vines and allowed to ripen on the truck as they make their long journey to your grocery store. You’ll immediately notice that they’re not as soft, lack the same juiciness, and they taste a little bit like, well, cardboard.
Now let’s look at the canned tomatoes. These tomatoes still have flavor, a rich acidity, and they’re super juicy. So juicy, in fact, that they’re usually swimming in their own juices! They are definitely an acceptable ingredient to have on hand in the pantry, especially in the winter. If you’re feeling ambitious at the end of the summer, you should can your own diced tomatoes!
How To Choose Your Canned Tomatoes
If you’re not canning the tomatoes yourself (which, I can never find the time to do), you’ll find yourself with a lot of options. The canned tomato aisle is one of the largest aisles in the grocery store – it’s not unusual to find dozens of varieties! They come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, so you’ll need to know what you’re after before you choose.
For this recipe, we selected diced tomatoes. These are fresh tomatoes which have been chopped into small pieces before heading to the canner. They’re usually packaged with tomato juice and citric acid to keep them shelf stable. You can choose a diced tomato that has been fired roasted to add some additional char-like flavor to the stew, or you can opt for an herbed tomato. Just make sure you’re checking the ingredients list and choosing a low-sodium version that’s free of additives like high-fructose corn syrup.
You also want to check to see if your diced tomatoes contain calcium chloride. This ingredient helps the cubes keep their shape without becoming mushy as they cook. This is bad if you’re trying to avoid any kind of additives, but good if you want a really chunky tomato stew. Otherwise, the tomatoes will break down and become super saucy.
Let’s Get Cooking!
I’m so excited to share this fresh breath of summer air to your winter soup routine. I can’t wait to hear how this easy tomato and basil slow cooker stew turned out. Let us know in the comments!
Yields: 4 servings | Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Calories: 153 | Total Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 766mg | Carbohydrates: 20g | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 13g | Protein: 11g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 6
- 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1 cup onions, diced
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups skim milk
- 1/2 cup low-fat parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except for milk, cheese, and fresh basil. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
- After the time has completed mash the vegetables in the stew. For a creamier stew, blend the cooked vegetables in a blender and return to the slow cooker. Stir in the milk and cook, uncovered, on low for 30 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls and top with parmesan and fresh basil. serve and enjoy.