Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pappa Al Pomidoro - A Fantastic Tomato Soup

This soup has been naging me to make it for weeks. It was one of the December choices for the Barefoot Bloggers (thanks Natalie from Burned Bits), but we were travelling and it was impossible. Not physically impossible. I did have access to a kitchen from time to time however there just was no way that I was going to give up being spoiled and not cooking while on holidays. I'm sure every mother in the world would have done the same. Believe me when I tell you that there is an inordinate pleasure sometimes in not being responsible for dinner for days at a time. And so much less washing up.....

So I planned to make this soup ASAP after our return, but it was hot. Far too hot to contemplate a traditional warm Italian soup with crunchy oven-baked topping. I made some cold soups instead. But then this week, in the middle of what is traditionally our most stifling month in Sydney, the weather suddenly cooled off to the point where a bowl of soup was a wonderful and welcoming thing. And this soup was particularly warm and welcoming. I am so very glad that it kept nagging at the back of my mind, because I will make this soup again and again. I did change things ever so slightly - I had bacon in the fridge and no pancetta, but in future I don't think I will bother with either. The croutons and basil were topping enough. I also blended the soup in the pot with my stick blender, mostly because I had assumed the soup would be blended at some point (naughty naughty not reading recipe all the way through), and had been very haphazard in my vegetable chopping. Blending it really prettied it up, and I think I would blend it again in the future. And as for the flavour, it is mouth-watering - it will remind you why tomato soup is such a classic.

If you are in the mood for soup, check out the Souper Sunday round-up from Deb at Kahakai Kitchen - there is a growing band of soup-lovers arriving at her site each week. Incidentally, I served it with corn bread - recipe to follow later this week.

Pappa Al Pomidoro
from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

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 (3 cm) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
4 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I halved this because the kids don't like things too 'herby')
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:
3 cups (3cm) diced ciabatta cubes
50g thickly sliced pancetta, chopped (or leave out)
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 stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. 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 180C. For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, 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 to 25 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.


Anonymous said...

I loved this soup too, I'm glad that you got a chance to make it!

Taking time off and letting others do all the cooking is nice from time to time. You are a lucky woman.

Debinhawaii said...

This is one of my all-time favorite soups and Ina dishes. It is really good. I could have just eaten the topping alone! ;-)

Thanks for joining Souper Sundays this week!