| Recipes |

Copycat vs. Real Deal: La Madeleine Tomato Basil Soup

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

I remember the first time I had La Madeleine's tomato basil soup. It was freakishly cold in February of 2004 in Austin. We got almost two inches of snow on Valentine's Day, the most snow Austin received at one time in the past decade.

We were starving, freezing and grocery-less, so a friend suggested we go to La Madeleine for lunch. La what? Yeah, sure, whatever. I ordered some sort of sandwich thing that was forgettable and a big bowl of tomato basil soup(e). WHY had I never had this before? Where had this soup been all my life? Holycrapitwassogood.

Rich and creamy with a complex flavor, it just warmed me up on a frosty day. Now, whenever the temperatures drop, I instantly crave a ginormous bowl. At 23, I could eat a bathtub filled with this stuff and not gain an ounce, but these days, I'm a little more conscious of the portion size, since there are about 350 calories per cup. (Who the hell can eat just one cup?!)

Since I found the copycat recipe last year, I've made it a few times but have always wondered how mine would hold up next to the real deal in a side by side comparison. So yesterday I made my little grocery list, headed to Kroger on West Gray and then hopped across the street to La Madeleine to purchase a jar.

First, let's talk about the price. One 31-ounce jar, approximately four servings at the restaurant, came up to $9 total. My groceries? $6 for eight to 10 servings (not counting the cream and butter I already had at home). Gotta love home-cookin'. Once home, I put La Madeleine's in a pot to simmer and got to work on the copycat.

The La Madeleine Tomato Basil Soup copycat recipe is as follows: (Excerpted from an article by Beverly Bundy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 1994.)

You need:

  • 4 cups (8-10) tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped or 4 cups canned whole tomatoes, crushed.
  • 4 cups tomato juice or mixture of tomato juice and vegetable or chicken stock
  • 12-14 fresh, washed basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) sweet, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • Crusty bread

How to:
1. Combine tomatoes, juice (or juice-stock mixture) in a saucepan.

2. Simmer 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

3. Puree, along with the basil leaves, in small batches, in blender, food processor (or better yet, one of those hand-held food blenders).

4. Return to saucepan and add cream and butter, while stirring, over low heat until cream and butter are incorporated. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with your favorite warm bread.

When both soups were ready to go, I put one serving of La Madeleine's and one serving of my copycat into three sets of bowls, labeled them A and B and wrangled three volunteers for the blind taste test.

Volunteer 1:

  • Thought they tasted very similar, but liked B better than A.
  • B is not as thick as A, but B is still creamy, more buttery.
  • Thinks B is La Madeleine.

Volunteer 2:

  • Thought B tasted better than A.
  • B isn't as chunky as A and likes that about it. B has more basil than A.
  • Thinks A is La Madeleine.

Volunteer 3:

  • Thought B tasted better than A.
  • A has more tomatoes.
  • Thinks B is La Madeleine.

A is La Madeleine, the real deal. B is the copycat.

All three tasters thought the copycat tasted better than the real deal, and only one out of three correctly guessed which soup was the real one.

I liked the copycat too, but there are a few things I'll do differently next time:

  • Go easy on the chicken stock. I feel like this made the soup watery, a thinner texture than I typically like.
  • Go easy on the food-processing. Again, with the texture, I pretty much pulverized the soup. Mega food-processed doesn't always mean well-mixed.

Do you like La Madeleine's tomato basil soup? Have you had a better version elsewhere? Would you give this recipe a shot? Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.