Pappa al Pomodoro

Jeff’s parents are in town this week to celebrate Father’s Day with us.

It’s Jeff’s first one. Since he’s such an awesome husband and dad, I want it to be terrific. I also want it to be terrific for his parents, so I’m going overboard in the kitchen. My plan is to make a special meal for everyone each night this week. We’ll have take-out a couple of nights too so I don’t keel over.

Tonight was Susan’s night. On the menu was Pappa al Pomodoro, a tomato soup that proves canned tomatoes can be just as exceptional as fresh ones. (I spotted a few tomatoes last week at the farmers’ market, but we’re still a couple weeks from a good selection.) This is one the best tomato soups I’ve found. You can make it year round. Chopped fennel, carrot and onion make this soup a bit chunky, one reason I like it so much. The other reason probably has to do with the basil and Parmesan.  Before serving, take a whisk and break up the bread, making it nice and thick. Croutons and crispy basil top it off. You could ad some crispy pancetta, which I didn’t do this time.

Next it’s John’s turn. He and Jeff, being from Houston, love Tex-Mex. So, for the next couple of nights we’ll be firing up our taste buds with chiles and enchiladas.

Pappa al Pomodoro
slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
6 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta bread (or french bread if you can’t find ciabatta), 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 cheese

For the topping
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta bread
2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving

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, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single later. 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, and 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.

Serves 6


4 Responses to “Pappa al Pomodoro”

  1. 1 Betsy
    June 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Hey there,
    Enjoying the blog. Two thoughts _ 1.) I am available for dinner! 2.) And didn’t you always use to eat like a plain ham sandwich and an apple for lunch? Despite having had a great dinner at your home previously, I am amazed you like to cook this much! Also, it occurs to me that perhaps I owe you a dinner invitation rather than inviting myself over to your place. Hope Jeff, Gabi, your in-laws and you have a wonderful Father’s Day!

  2. June 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Ha! Thanks Betsy! Yeah, you’re remembering correctly about the ham sandwiches. I’ll be eating them again soon, though maybe I’ll throw in some cheese and different fruit. Dinner at your house? OK!

  3. 3 Julia
    June 17, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    So, how do you menu plan? Do you figure out what you’re going to make for the week in advance and then do your shopping? Or do you impulse buy at the farmers’ market? Do you sit down with cookbooks, or just think of what would taste good? Do you try to balance meat, poultry, fish, pasta, etc?

    • June 18, 2010 at 9:01 am

      I do a little of everything. We have a stack of cookbooks in several rooms of the house, and there’s always a half dozen things I’m dying to make at any given time. I also impulse buy at the farmers’ market A LOT. Every other week we have the CSA box, which means figuring out what to make with seasonal goodies, without letting any of it go to waste. We don’t think much about the balance of it, but we probably should. I didn’t realize how little meat we eat in the summer until I started doing this!

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