Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuscan Bread Soup, aka Pappa Al Pomodoro

It's super cold outside. I also happen to have a cold. I'm not griping too much because cold + cold = soup. And Ina Garten sure knows how to make a mean pot of soup. Man, can that woman write a recipe.

The recipe is pretty straight forward, but with an ingredient I had never used... fennel. I'm not a fan of black licorice (which is what fennel smells like), but decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. The soup was delicious, full-bodied, rich and just what the doctor (would have) ordered.  The topping (a roasted mix of bread, prosciutto, and basil) was the perfect addition. It definitely takes a good hour and a half from start to finish, but I think it was worth every minute. Whether you are sick, or just sick of the cold, make this yummy soup. It'll make you feel better.

Start out by chopping 2 onions, 3-4 carrots, 1 fennel bulb, and mince 4 cloves of garlic.

Add the chopped veggies to 1/2 c. olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Choose one that can hold 5 quarts or more. I did not and had to switch halfway through the cooking process. 

Stir in 3 c. of bread cubes. The recipe calls for ciabatta, but I had focaccia on hand, so that was substituted.

Pulse 2 cans of tomatoes in the food processor until they are coarsely chopped. I bought the expensive tomatoes because Ina suggested it, but I think any old whole or crushed can of tomatoes will do.

Coarsely chop 1 c. of fresh basil. This recipe calls for a lot of basil. If it's available in your garden, awesome. Mine's dead, and Trader Joe's has the best price for fresh basil I've found. I used two big containers of organic basil from TJ's and they were $2.69 each.

Add the tomatoes, 1/2 c. red wine, salt, pepper, and 4 c. of chicken stock. Bring to a boil. (Note the necessary pan substitution.)

When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and keep it partially covered for 45 minutes.

While simmering the soup, prep that delicious topping. Place 3 c. of bread cubes, 20-ish basil leaves, and some chopped prosciutto onto a large baking sheet. The prosciutto was a substitution for pancetta as well, but it worked perfectly. Add some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The finished product. 

Add a 1/2 c. of fresh grated parm to the soup. Devour the entire bowl. 

Pappa Al Pomodoro
Serves: 6-8
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced focaccia cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
For the topping:
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large (5 quart) stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the focaccia cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the focaccia cubes, prosciutto, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Source: Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics Cookbook

1 comment:

  1. so yummy and garlicy. The topping I could have eaten by itself(and I may have just a little off the pan)