Sunday, February 20, 2011

Italian tomato bread soup

Mahala and Sarah from my church community group came over yesterday and we cooked. This is our adaptation of a recipe by Ina Garten in her Back to Basics cookbook. It's so good I'm feeling like I need to beg forgiveness for loving it so much. Don't skip the topping! The topping in itself is a work of art.

Italian Tomato Bread Soup

For the soup:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped sweet onion
1 cup medium-diced carrots
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1½ cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups diced ciabatta bread, cubed to 1-inch pieces
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes (I used Cento brand)
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the topping:
3 cups diced ciabatta bread, cubed to 1-inch pieces
4 slices (½ inch thick) pancetta (about 5 ounces), chopped coarsely
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


For soup:
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 bread cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the tomatoes chicken stock, red wine, basil, and pepper to the pot. With immersion blender, pulse the mixture several times just to break up the tomatoes. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook partially covered for 45 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese.

For the topping:
Preheat oven 375 degrees F. While soup is simmering, place bread 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.

Put soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with topping.

Makes six generous servings.

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