2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large stems of fresh basil
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, quartered
pinch of sugar
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup whipping cream
fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion for 3 minutes, or until it is soft and translucent.

Add the garlic, basil stems, thyme, bay leaf, tomato paste, and the fresh tomatoes.  Season with the sugar, salt and black pepper.  Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.

Puree in a blender or food processor and strain through a fine strainer.  Return to the saucepan, stir in the cream and reheat gently without boiling.  Check the seasoning.

Serve the soup in bowls or one large soup dish, garnishing the top with strips of basil.(If tomatoes are out of season and lack flavor, two 16-oz cans of tomatoes can be used and will also give excellent results.)