1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter, divided
8 garlic cloves, peeled and divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, more to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh basil)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 scant tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon thyme (or 1 scant tablespoon fresh)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups bread cubes (preferably a cheese bread, such as asiago, cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
1/2 cup marscapone cheese, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated havarti cheese

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, saute the onion in the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter until onion is soft and translucent, for about 6 minutes. Finely mince 5 of the garlic cloves and stir into onion, along with the salt, pepper, basil, oregano and thyme; continue to cook for another minute or so. Add the tomato paste, spreading it with a spatula around pan, so it can brown slightly (to produce some wonderful flavor).

Stir in the tomatoes and broth; cook at a slow simmer, covered, for an hour. Every now and then, as whole tomatoes soften and dissolve, poke and flatten them.

While soup is cooking, prepare croutons. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat remaining butter over medium heat. Finely minced remaining 3 garlic cloves and gently saute in butter until beginning to brown; remove from heat.

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour garlic-butter mixture over them, tossing to coat cubes thoroughly. Spread cubes on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until golden-brown, for about 10 minutes; remove from oven and set aside.

When tomato mixture has cooked, remove pot from heat and let cool slightly. Blend soup either in pot with a hand-held blender, or in batches in an blender or food processor. Reheat soup over low heat. Stir in the mascarpone and havarti, stirring until completely melted. Adjust seasonings, adding additional salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve, ladle a generous portion into each soup bowl, then garnish with a dollop of mascarpone and a handful of croutons.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.