This recipe has all of the flavors of your favorite BLT sandwich but in a comforting, easy-to-make tomato soup. The rendered bacon fat is used to flavor both the base of the soup and the crispy croutons that you sprinkle on at the end. For a final flourish, we finish the soup with a rustic green sauce called pistou. If you don’t have the time (or energy) to make your own, feel free to swirl in your favorite store-bought pesto instead.
Add the bacon to a large, cold, dry pot. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat into a small heatproof bowl; reserve.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the remaining bacon fat. Add the bread and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate with the bacon. Toss to combine.
In the pot, add the reserved bacon fat and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, a generous pinch of salt and one 28-ounce can of water (about 3 cups). Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, then reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until thickened slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the honey.
Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender and purée until smooth. Be careful not to overfill your blender and hold the top in place with a kitchen towel in case of any splatter. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Season with salt.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each bowl with pistou, then top with bacon croutons. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and serve right away.
NOTE When tomatoes are abundant and bursting with juices in the summer and early fall, we highly recommend swapping the canned variety for fresh peeled ones.
Think of this zesty green sauce as the French cousin of Italian pesto. While traditional pistou uses basil, this rustic sauce is a great way to use up whatever tender greens and or herbs you have in your fridge.
In a mini food processor, finely chop the garlic. Add the herbs and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. With the machine running, slowly stream in the olive oil until you have a cohesive rustic sauce. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Alternatively, you can make this sauce by hand with a chef’s knife and mix it in a small bowl.
MAKE AHEAD The pistou can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.