This soup is a regular around here. I saw Rachael Ray make this on one of her 30 minute meals shows and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Largely, because it was really different from what I was used to. See, you put a bunch of cubed bread right into the soup to thicken it up at the end. Bread and soup, hmmm. I don't know how I felt about that at first. What sold me was that it was authentically Italian and a little old man in Italy taught Rachel how to make it. It's a simple, flavorful tomato based soup with a few white beans and onions. You add the bread in at the end and it soaks up all the juices and becomes one with the rest of the concoction. It is a beautiful, filling soup and will most likely become a regular in your house too.
The old man from Italy was absolutely insistent on one thing. You have to top this soup with parmesan cheese, fresh basil raw onions, and a drizzle of fruity olive oil or it is not authentic. He made his point alright since Rachael reminds us of this like 40 times during the 30 minute show. It really does make this soup special. The old man says that if you don't have all the correct toppings, don't bother making the soup. I will say, this soup is tasty on it's own but I agree with Italy. Get the toppings right. It does make a huge difference.
I am blogging about soup because in Steamboat it is about 10 degrees (-20 the other morning, and -40 last week) and we just got 2 feet of fresh snow. It's chilly. If you live in sunny Florida or California where it's currently 75 degrees and soup isn't really on your radar, I'm sorry I have nothing to offer you. You have the sun. You can grill in your tank tops and flip-flops. Just writing that sentence makes me mad. :) The rest of the country which is snow bound will embrace this recipe with open arms, I'm sure. By the way, I know the weather in California because my Dad, who is a southern Cali resident, called me during the Superbowl to ask me what the weather was like in Steamboat. I said it was freezing and snowing. He was like "Oh, man, I'm sweating like a pig out here, it's 80 degrees in the valley!" Bastard. Then, it dawns on me and I ask "Dad, why are you calling me right now? Aren't you watching the Superbowl?" He replies, very seriously and dismayed, I might add "Krysta! Both teams...BOTH teams don't have cheerleaders! That's why I watch!" Bastard. Ha ha, you would have to know my dad to still love him. He's the kind of guy that can get away with comments like that. On to soup...
Papa al Pomodoro
adapted from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals, Food Network
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium to large onion, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 quart chicken stock
4 cups, about 1/2 pound, chopped or torn stale bread (mine isn't ever stale, oops)
2 (15-ounce) cans small white beans, such as Goya brand (smaller than cannellini)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to pass at table
10-12 fresh basil leaves, torn
Heat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and 3/4 of the onion. Save the rest of the onion for topping. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, then add tomatoes and crushed tomatoes and season generously with salt and pepper (salt will bring all the flavor out). Add stock and raise heat to make the soup bubble. Reduce heat to simmer and add bread and beans. Stir soup as it simmers until it thickens to a stew-like consistency. Turn off heat, adjust seasonings and ladle into shallow bowls. Top with grated cheese, an additional drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, basil and a spoonful of the reserved finely chopped onion.
I'd like to take this space to remind you again, a la Italian guy, of the importance of using all the toppings. If you don't have the basil, that's about the only topping you can safely omit unless you are me and love, love, love basil.