Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pappa Al Pomidoro--Barefoot Bloggers

Well the best laid plans... I am not writing this post from Portland, hanging out with my family as anticipated but instead from Hawaii. Bronchitis and inclement weather morphed into a sinus infection and inclement weather and I am stuck at home, sick for the holidays.  I guess there are worse things--I am not freezing, trapped at an airport or bus station and can go to the beach when I feel better but it doesn't really feel like Christmas right now.  I have become Max's favorite napping companion these past few days and have been getting lots of sympathy snuggles (of course a 15 pound cat on your chest doesn't exactly help with the breathing, not to mention his little drool problem but it's done with love), so life is not all bad.  

It also helps to have a warm, comforting bowl of really good soup. Ina's Pappa Al Pomidoro, selected by Natalie of Burned Bits, is definitely that, REALLY good soup...I mean REALLY, REALLY good. The kind of soup that warms you up, fills your tummy and your soul and makes you crave more, especially with the topping of ciabatta cubes, basil leaves and pancetta, all crisp and toasted. The smell alone is incredible--I may just make a pan of the topping every day.  I am not normally a tomato soup fan, but this one is so complex and flavorful and the bread really adds a nice, hearty texture. This may actually be one of my very favorite Ina recipes so far.   

Pappa Al Pomidoro
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Ina Garten

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.

Notes/Results:  This makes a lot of soup--Ina says it serves 6 and as usual, they would be "ginormous" servings.  I made a half batch, which was at least six, decent-sized servings, but I ate it all the past few days and actually wish I had more. Don't omit the topping--if you don't do meat, still bake the basil and ciabatta cubes and then grate some Parmesan over it when you serve.  This soup is delicious and I will make it again. Thanks Natalie for a great recipe pick!  Since it's Christmas, the Barefoot Bloggers have until 12/31 to post this recipe and you can check out their results here.

This may not be the most fun or festive Christmas I have ever spent but I am grateful for family and good friends worrying about me and checking on me and I'll make it back "home" soon.  Here is to a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year for everyone.


  1. oh no, sorry to hear your brochitis morphed into a sinus infection. I hope you feel better soon, Merry Christmas and may 2009 be a delicious and healthy year for you.

  2. Oh dear, sorry to hear you are down for the count on Christmas. Looks like cat therapy is helping, as well as Contessa therapy, but I hope you are feeling much better soon! Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful New Year to you. And Max.

  3. So sorry your Christmas plans were ruined. Having just gotten over an URI, I can commiserate. It took a week before I felt human. Like your Max, my Molly Bloom weighs 16 pounds, but it's a comforting 16 pounds and she and my little Pittypat kept me company all week. I am not usually a tomato-based soup fan, but this looks wonderful. I must confess, I may just make the topping for my pasta fagiola. I do hope you can get in some beach time before the holidays are over. Aloha.

  4. So sorry you were sick on Christmas and couldn't get home! I've been sick for a week now and this soup looks like a perfect bowl of comfort. Hope you are feeling better soon, Deb!

  5. This looks delicious. I haven't had a chance to make it yet, but I'm dying to try it. So sorry to hear you're sick. Get well soon.

  6. Hope you're feeling better! Your soup looks fantastic. I really liked this recipe. Jeff hates tomato soup, but the Contessa lured him in with pancetta, so I wasn't stuck eating a vat of soup alone. ;)

  7. Your soup looks so very healing and hearty and wonderful!
    Get better, my friend, soak up a little sunshine.

  8. Your soup looks delicious too, Deb! Just got back last night from a week in Maui--you are so lucky to live in Paradise! I just wonder where people who live in very isolated areas grocery shop? Aloha!

  9. Oh dear - it sounds like a lot of us were sick for Christmas! Better that you could snuggle with Max - I was on and off planes with my sinuses threatening to cave my head in. Pappa al pomodoro is a wonderfully nurturing soup.


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