Sunday, 18 January 2009

Ina's Pappa al Pomodoro

Ok here it is. The soup people have been telling me to make. The soup that one good friend reminds me on a regular basis to make. All this for a soup?
It's just that good. So rich and flavourful - with a crunchy, savoury topping of pancetta, ciabatta and basil leaves all toasted to salty, crunchy perfection.
All through dinner hubby kept saying, "I love Ina!". Rarely does he proclaim his love for other women at the dinner table, but he felt compelled by the soup. It's ok, I love Ina too.
I love her enough to stand in line for over 5 hours to meet her and get her to sign my book two years ago. Fortunately, my teenage son loves me enough to have voluntarily kept me company for said book signing. Rewarded for his faithfulness with a book and both breakfast and lunch in the city, not bad.

So, in the spirit of such love, I say to you, "Make this soup". You'll be glad you did.
Celebrate Souper Sundays with Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, a celebration of comfort.
Pappa al Pomodoro, Ina Garten, 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 (1-inch) diced ciabatta 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 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. 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 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.

*This soup is really good.
*I couldn't find a fennel bulb so I used some cremini mushrooms and celery for the body and added about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed for the flavour.
*I used thick cut bacon instead of the pancetta.
*We have yet to be disappointed by one of Ina's recipes, all of her cookbooks are good investments in my opinion.
*I used my immersion blender for a quick pulse, to leave it half smooth.
*This soup is really good.