It was a surprisingly cold week in Ann Arbor last week...
My timing is pretty cold too. I had just cleaned and packed away my boots and sweaters and washed all my summer dresses, ready to get this summer started! Then Monday morning greeted us with a chilly 50 degrees and cloudy skies...
Instead of getting too bummed that my feet were going to be frozen all week, I decided to make the best of the cool weather and make one of my favorite soups to stay warm!
I love, love tomatoes and there's almost nothing better than a good, chunky tomato soup. This soup is packed with fresh ingredients and has a nice balance of sweet carrots and basil, garlic, tomato acidity and salty Parmesan and bacon.
Since I'm hooked on cooking with basil right now - I bought two bunches just last week! - this recipe is the first of a few that I'll share with you that include basil. I would totally grow a basil plant myself if I didn't have a plant-eating kitten to contain...
A bit of fresh Roma tomatoes to up the antioxidant factor!
This recipe calls for cubed ciabatta bread with crusts removed. While ciabatta as my favorite bread in this soup, there is some flexibility, for example, I used an Italian loaf from Whole Foods here and have used baguette before. What you really don't want to be flexible on is removing the crusts. I should know. The crusts turns into mushy dough floating in your soup, so make sure you don't skip this step!
Sprinkle your hot soup with loads of Parmesan and stir to melt and incorporate the cheese. Then top with a little bacon, fresh basil and - why not - more Parmesan! You know you want to!
Pappa al Pomodoro
1/4 c olive oil
1 c chopped yellow onion
1 c cubed carrots
3 cloves garlic minced
1 c diced ciabatta bread, crust removed
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 c cubed plum tomatoes
4 c chicken stock
1/4 c dry red wine
1 c chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish)
Bacon Basil Croutons:
A few slices of chopped cooked bacon (turkey bacon or pancetta are both great too)
A handful of fresh basil leaves
3 cups 1-inch cubed ciabatta bread
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
In large stock pot, heat oil over medium and add onion, garlic, carrots and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup cubed, crustless ciabatta bread, stir to combine and cook for about 3 minutes. Add canned diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, chicken stock, wine, basil, salt and pepper. Stir and bring soup to a boil then lower the heat to simmer. Cook partially covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
For the bacon basil croutons, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set your bread on it in a single, even layer. Drizzle with olive oil and salt, toss to coat. Bake for about 10 minutes, then add your bacon, stir and bake for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile chop your basil leaves. After your croutons are slightly crispy, remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil and let cool on a wire rack.
After 45 minutes have passed for the soup, use a wire whisk to break up the bread and adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve your soup in big bowls with plenty of room to stir in your toppings!
You might have noticed, I didn't go full on basil bacon crouton here. Since I used up my bread making the soup, I skipped the crouton and cooked the bacon on its own . The crouton is great when serving this meal to guests, but for just me and Andy, it wasn't worth going out to buy more bread to make it :)
It is supposed to be cool again for a few days starting tomorrow...perfect weather for this delicious soup!