Another delicious Italian vegetable soup/stew that's made with bread is aquacotta. Somewhat like ribollita in that it's got cabbage, kale, onions and beans in it. But it's served with poached eggs and grated Parmesan over the top. Marcella has an excellent recipe for it, or you can probably find one with an Internet search.
Had the best pappa al pomodoro of my life at a cooking class in Tuscany last month, and brought the recipe home with me. The trick is in slicing the bread VERY VERY THINLY and pouring the soup on top of it, not just throwing thick hunks into the soup as most recipes advise. I can't stop thinking about this stuff. Supposedly pappa al pomodoro can be made with good canned tomatoes (Pomi?), but I've only made it with super-ripe red and it's been fabulous. I will wait until next summer to make it again, or else to go back to Tuscany in the meantime. Here you go:
TUSCAN PAPPA AL POMODORO
1 loaf stale, unsalted Italian or French bread, thinly sliced (if you can’t find unsalted, omit sea salt from recipe)
6 whole garlic cloves
1 medium yellow onion, finely sliced
1 pound peeled, sliced, sun-ripened plum tomatoes (or 2 large cans Italian plum tomatoes)
2 T. tomato paste
1/4 c. olive oil
20-25 leaves fresh basil, torn
5 leaves fresh basil, reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄2 tsp. crushed, dried hot peppers (or flakes)
Slice the bread very thinly and leave out overnight to get stale.
Sauté the whole garlic cloves and onion in olive oil with the hot pepper flakes. (Make sure not to crush the garlic when sautéing.) When the garlic and onion are lightly browned, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper, crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon and stir. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Add half the basil leaves, torn into bits. Cook until the tomatoes fall apart.
Layer the bread slices in a large oven-safe bowl, preferably thick ceramic. Pour the hot soup onto the bread and let sit, without stirring, for at least an hour so that the bread soaks up all the soup. With the back of a spoon, smash all remaining whole garlic cloves that are left sitting on top of the bread. Mix garlic paste and remaining basil, and stir until the bread is a “mush” (pappa).
Sit bowl in a warm oven (about 300 degrees) for 10 minutes, then increase heat to 400. Stir occasionally until soup is warmed through. Remove and serve on plates, each serving garnished with a drizzle of fresh (not years-old!) extra-virgin olive oil and torn pieces of reserved basil leaves.
NOTE: Soup is better made at least one day ahead and reheated.
This is a bit different (and more involved), but wonderful for colder fall and winter weather. It's actually kind of a bread casserole both made and served with onion soup. Great comfort food, from "Chez Panisse Cooking," by Paul Bertolli
The original recipe calls for levain or similar "sturdy sourdough bread," but any full-flavored bread with good body works well.
Following is the paraphrased recipe. I use 6 cups of stock instead of the called-for 4 because otherwise there's not enough "soup" for me.
Bread and Onion Soup with Red Wine
5 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
5 slices levain or other sturdy bread (8 oz) - read above
1 cup fruity red wine
4 cups beef or chicken stock/broth (I use 6)
1 clove garlic
3 Tbsps. freshly grated Parmesan
Heat 3 T. olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onions, salt, and thyme, turn heat to low, and cook onions for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375F. Brush bread slices with remaining olive oil, lay on a sheet pan, and bake 20 minutes, until dry and a bit toasted. Rub the bread with the garlic and break each slice in half. Put half the bread in a baking dish (about 8x10x2").
Add the wine to the onions and scrape up any browned bits. add the stock and pepper liberally. Cover the bread in the baking dish with a thick layer of onions, removed with a slotted spoon. Now measure and set aside 3 cups onion broth (5 if you used 6 cups stock to make it). Ladle half the remaining broth over the bread and onions in the dish, and sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Repeat the layers, and bake uncovered about an hour, until the broth is nearly all absorbed and the cheese is crusty. Rewarm the remaining onion broth; divide the bread casserole between shallow soup plates, being sure each serving gets some of the crusty top, and ladle the broth around it.
My favorite bread soup is in Marcella Hazan's "More Classic Italian Cooking," one of the recipes incomprehensibly dropped from the "Essentials" edition. It's basically:
2 cups diced potatoes
3 cups water
2 cups rocket, washed and chopped
2 cups stale Italian or other crusty bread, cut up
1/4 cup strong, green olive oil
Boil potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes. Add rocket and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, add bread, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir in olive oil, add pepper to taste, correct salt.
Since this is so simple the quality of each ingredient is very important.
There's a vegetable soup along the same lines called ribbolita, meaning 'reboiled'. I believe it's a vegetable soup, reheated, with small chunks of whatever bread thrown in, then reboiled, hence the name. Actually it is probably simmered, not boiled. Let cool a little, then dish up and trail a thread of evoo over the top, plus some grated parm. Tasty, good for you, simple, and uses leftovers.
Hi more, no, thats not it--altho that one sounds good too. I'ts called Tomato Bread Soup:Pappa al Pomodoro. If I knew how to link the recipe I would- something I really need to learn how to do. Hope you will be able to find it--it's wonderful and very easy. Please let me know--I'll post it if you can't find it!
re: jackie de
Sweet! Found it by the title you gave me, thanks!
Here's the link:
Jackie, you just copy the http: etc given at 'Address' window on top of the screen (once you're at the page you want), then paste it onto your message. Anyway, that's how I do it.
Cheers, thanks again! Can't wait to try it, very timely as I do still have some lovely tomatoes to use! Have already made 2 tomato tarts, 2 trays of roasted tomatoes for the freezer and a cooked salsa this morning. Still have more to use, having fun!