Pappa Al Pomodoro
This soup is a rich, thick mixture of many vegetables, both cooked and toasted ciabatta cubes, and, of course, tomatoes. The cubes of ciabatta bread, Italy's answer to the French baguette, come from an elongated, flat loaf that I get at Feel Good Bakery in Alameda.
I chop, then start to cook until tender in 1/2 cup of olive oil, two onions, three carrots, a fennel bulb, and four cloves of garlic.
Start with the vegetables
Meanwhile, I prepare the remaining ingredients for the soup, two large cans of San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed, three cups of diced ciabatta cubes (with the crust removed), four cups of stock (from our frozen stock made previously), 1/2 cup of red wine, one cup of chopped basil leaves, and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese.
The tomatoes, stock, red wine, basil and salt and pepper are added to the vegetables, then it all comes to a boil and simmers for at least 45 minutes.
All together, simmering
45 minutes later, much smoother
While the soup is simmering, I prepare the topping, spreading out on a cookie sheet three cups of ciabatta cubes, 1/4 pound of diced pancetta, 25 or so basil leaves, all covered with several tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. This all baked in a 375 degree oven for just under 1/2 hour, until everything is crisp.
Baking the topping
To serve, I stir the grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese into the soup, ladle it into bowls, and add the topping.
Soup and topping ready to go
Assembled and served
This is a substantial soup, with incredible complementary flavors and tastes. Try it!