Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pappa al Pomodoro Soup

There are certain times when you just need to have a good hearty bowl of soup. Maybe you've been snowed in, maybe you just spent two hours outside shoveling snow, or maybe your job requires you to work outside in the bitter cold. A big bowl of home made soup always seems to hit the spot!
When I was growing up, we'd come home from playing out in the snow all day, having snowball fights, building snowmen, or sledding, and Mom would always have a huge pot of soup simmering on the stove. It's actually one of my favorite childhood memories.
This soup is the perfect thing to warm you up and thaw you out. My sister-in-law, Marianne, made it for my family's New Year's Day get together, and I immediately asked her if I could have the recipe. Just wait 'til you taste it. It's SO delicious!
Thanx Mare!
And thanx Beth!

Hi, Joe, here is the recipe that Tricia's mother-in-law, Beth DelBorrello gave me. Just double it for a crowd.

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (about 3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 tsp. minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread, crusts removed
2 28 oz. good Italian plum tomatoes coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade but canned chicken stocks works just as well)
1/2 cup dry red wine (a Cabernet is good)
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups (1 inch dice) ciabatta bread
2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the crustless ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes giving it stir every so often. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring soup to a boil, lower the heat and allow to simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes, stirring every so often. The bread will soften and thicken the soup. Right before serving, use a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Add some Parmesan cheese to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375. For the topping place the ciabatta, pancetta, and basil leaves on a large baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss well. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes until the ingredients are crisp and golden brown. The basil will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Add 1/ 2 cup Parmesan cheese on top and toss. Serve as a topping for the soup.

The thing that makes it so hearty is the bread. Don't skimp on the bread! It's used to thicken the soup as well as to flavor it. Delish!

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