Cannellini Tomato Soup… with Grilled Cheese Croutons or Dippers

By Ann Fulton

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The unexpected addition of a simple can of cannellini beans provides protein and added creaminess when pureed into the soup…and nobody ever knows it’s there. Whether served with grilled cheese croutons or dippers, what kid (or adult) wouldn’t love it? Plus it’s easy to make with basic, inexpensive, pantry items.


You may be wondering how a bowl of tomato soup ties into Easter…and you might be thinking this soup looks slightly familiar. If I mentioned that an old friend recently called me and revealed that April is National Grilled Cheese Month, today’s choice might make some sense. But there’s more.

Pam Hoffmaster and her husband, Brett, own and operate the local franchise of Tom + Chee, a restaurant specializing in a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Pam recently came across today’s recipe–one of the first I ever posted on my Fountain Avenue Kitchen blog—and it was right up her alley.

Though the taste is much like a traditional tomato soup, this unconventional recipe incorporates cannellini beans for both creaminess and added protein along with carrots for their natural sweetness and vibrant color. What initially caught Pam’s eye and got her creative juices flowing, however, was my use of grilled cheese croutons and dippers.

Pam pitched the idea of putting my soup recipe on the Tom + Chee menu for the month of April to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month. Perhaps since Pam and I originally met through volunteer work, or maybe because any good celebration involves the spirit of giving, Pam then offered to donate the proceeds of this special menu item to an organization that happens to be near and dear to my heart — The Boys & Girls Club of Lancaster.

Soon after I graduated from college, I began volunteering at the organization’s Rockland Street Clubhouse. One day each week, I’d head from my job to the Club and spend a few hours in a big activities room where the younger boys had time for free play before more structured activities like Homework Help and Dinner Club.

On my first day, I spotted a Connect Four game, which was one of my childhood favorites. I started setting it up and recruited an opponent. A minute or two into our first round, I glanced up to see a line of no less than 15 boys waiting for a turn.

That was the moment I realized how vital this organization was to these children…and that I needed to choose a different game!

In the nearly 20 years that followed, I organized an after-school book club, spearheaded school uniform and book drives, ran fundraisers, and served on the board. My fondest memories, however, are of the time spent simply playing with the boys and girls.

I would have happily agreed to Pam’s initial suggestion—to sell a Fountain Avenue Kitchen recipe in the restaurant for the coming month.   The way she linked it to her second idea got me really excited.

So while I’m always thrilled when readers report that they’ve prepared one of my recipes, I’d be over-the-moon if you’d let Tom + Chee cook this one for you in the coming weeks. Think of it as classic comfort food for a worthy cause…and nourishing your own soul while helping others to flourish.

If you’d like to go… (Offer is over)
Tom + Chee 
Address:  2065 Fruitville Pike, Lancaster, PA 17601  
Phone:  (717) 553-5897
Hours:  Monday-Saturday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm; Sunday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

The unexpected addition of a simple can of cannellini beans provides protein and added creaminess when pureed into the soup...and nobody ever knows it's there. Whether served with grilled cheese croutons or dippers, what kid (or adult) wouldn't love it? Plus it's easy to make with basic, inexpensive, pantry items.

A single sandwich goes a little further when served as croutons or dippers, and the protein from the beans already gives the soup more staying power.  Several years ago, I got the crouton idea from a witty cookbook called “Bite Me.”  Since then, I’ve often seen this fun soup topper on food magazine covers and throughout the cyber world.  In my mind, I always give credit to this clever cookbook with the tongue-in-cheek name.

The unexpected addition of a simple can of cannellini beans provides protein and added creaminess when pureed into the soup...and nobody ever knows it's there. Whether served with grilled cheese croutons or dippers, what kid (or adult) wouldn't love it? Plus it's easy to make with basic, inexpensive, pantry items.While the crouton idea came from the book, the actual soup recipe evolved in my kitchen over time.  Grilled cheese dippers offer a variation on the croutons and ensure the crispy sandwich edges stay that way.  The bottom line is a hearty, satisfying meal that we always enjoy - no matter what the topping!

Grilled cheese and tomato soup are a match made it that becomes infinitely more fabulous with a simple twist!

Of course, a heart dipper is fitting for Valentine’s Day, although why wait?  All you need is a cookie cutter, and it’s guaranteed to make someone smile any day of the year. 

Cannellini Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
The woodsy flavor of rosemary adds a little something extra to this soup, but use caution with this pungent herb. Too much can easily overpower a dish. Be sure not to exceed one teaspoon. Fresh thyme is an option to the rosemary. If you do not have fresh herbs on hand, a general rule of thumb is to use one-third the amount in dried herbs.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato purée
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (see comments above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon if you prefer less spiciness)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 grilled cheese sandwiches, cut into cubes or spears (see notes)
  • Fresh basil for garnish, optional
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and carrots in the olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, tomato purée, broth, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  2. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. I use an immersion blender which makes quick work of this task and minimizes cleanup. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper. (I add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; you may adjust depending on what type of broth you use and personal preference.) Simmer for a few minutes more.
  3. Garnish with grilled cheese croutons and fresh basil, if desired.
  • For the grilled cheese croutons, I like to use Pepperidge Farm whole wheat thin bread. I use 1-2 slices of Cooper sharp cheese–enough to cover the bread with one layer of cheese–and cook as you would your favorite grilled cheese (three minutes on a Panini press works well, too). The result is a thin, crispy sandwich with just the right amount of gooey cheese–perfect for the croutons, or dippers if you prefer. Regular or gluten-free bread and your cheese of choice may absolutely be used.
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The Fountain Avenue Kitchen
Cannellini Tomato Soup

…and a photo from the first year of my blog⇧⇧

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  1. Judy Briner

    Delicious tomato soup with protein from the beans. I was excited to use my fresh rosemary growing on my windowsill. Since I had previously purged my immersion blender from lack of use, I purchased a new one for this recipe and will continue to make this soup. It was a healthy, well balanced dinner.

  2. Barb

    Yum! I made this tonight with tomatoes from the garden that needed to be used so it may have been a little thinner than it would have been if I had used canned pureed tomatoes. But they needed to be used up and thought they’d work. I also used a hot pepper from the garden instead of the hot pepper flakes – again, because we have so many that need to be used! It was delicious and very filling! I doubled the recipe and am planning to freeze some. Hope that works! I love that it has the cannellini beans in it – makes it a complete meal.

    1. Ann Post author

      Such a great comment, Barb! Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback. I love that you worked in the fresh ingredients that needed to be used, and I do think the soup will freeze well for you. If you use fresh tomatoes again at some point and find the consistency to be thinner as a result, you could definitely simmer the soup with the lid off until it reaches your desired thickness. In fact, don’t hesitate to do this if your frozen batch is thinner than you like when thawed.

  3. Diane Post author

    This is now my go-to tomato soup. Did not add the red pepper flakes because of my husband, but did put a little Chipotle hot sauce on mine. Delicious!

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  6. Beverley

    You are such a clever girl..we often have soup and a sandwich and you have come up with the perfect solution …love it xoxo

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  8. Nancy Rote

    Am delighted to be on your new web site. Your recipes are so appealing and so easy to prepare. Great for family or for just two oldies where the “lady of the kitchen” likes to keep it simple but yummy. You are bringing new life to our meals. thanks and looking forward to more wonderful recipes. Thanks for sharing, Ann.