Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pappa Al Pomodoro and A Childish Hatred Laid To Rest


For most of the years of my life (and that is getting to be a considerable number)
I have hated cooked tomatoes.
Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, ketchup--I enjoyed all of those.
But whole or cut-up and cooked tomatoes, even tomato juice I couldn't choke down.
Wouldn't even eat Campbell's tomato soup.
Particularly anathema to me were tomatoes stewed.

When I look back and analyze this hatred, I think it was the
texture of the things that grossed me out.
They remind me of great big blood clots or something equally unpleasant.
(Sorry for that vivid image).
And those seeds floating around--yuck.

As an adult, though, I have to say that even though it's not exactly
the real thing, I can enjoy a can of Campbell's for a quick lunch.
Still can't stomach the stewed kind, which for some reason, my mother
felt she had to serve about once a month during my formative years.
I swore I'd never do that to my kids.
And I haven't.

Fortunately before I became too old a dog to learn new ways,
I found this recipe of Ina Garten's.
I have to admit, at first I thought it was a pasta dish (can you tell we're
not Italian?) but as I
examined the recipe and list of ingredients, I saw it was soup.
I decided to try it anyway.
Ms. Garten has never let me down before.

And she still hasn't. This soup is so creamy, so
perfectly seasoned and balanced, that the large potful the recipe made
was polished off in one meal.
You don't readily discern the ciabatta since it disintegrates
during the whisking, but it gives the soup its perfect smoothness (again with the texture).

I was really looking forward to leftovers, to see how it tasted
the second time after being reheated. Some things are actually better the second time around. Lasagna springs to mind. Guess I'll have to make this soup again soon in order
to find that out.

This recipe is not for those in a hurry. In addition to the prep time, it simmers for
forty-five minutes and then some.
But what makes this soup so outstanding is its slow melding of carrots, onions,
garlic and basil as it cooks.
The taste is much more satisfying for its slow cooking.

Who else but The Barefoot Contessa could make a tomato
soup lover out of me?

My mother will never believe it.

Pappa Al Pomodoro
(adapted from Ina Garten's recipe in The Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics)


1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups diced ciabatta bread (1 inch cubes)
2 (28 oz. each) cans good Italian plum tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese

For the topping:

3 cups chopped ciabatta bread (1 inch cubes)
2 oz. sliced pancetta, chopped
24-30 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, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or 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 layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes or until all the ingredients are crisp. Reheat the soup if necessary; beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Season further according to individual taste.

Serve hot, sprinkling grated Fontina cheese and pancetta and toasted bread crumbs on each serving.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This is, like, the ultimate Tuscan comfort food. LOVE this soup! Glad she showed you the error of your ways (just joking, of course).

Thanks for sharing this!

Jane said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I think I lucked out and found a really great recipe for it the first time I tried it. This is definitely going into my regular rotation.