Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pappa Al Pomodoro Garnished with Ciabatta Crutons, Toasted Prosciutto and Crispy Basil

I decided to cook to something besides Devo. Before I tell you how it worked out, let me share some of the artists and songs from that playlist.

Sublime – Garden Grove
Sex Pistols – Submission
Run On – Moby
Jack the Ripper (live) – Morrissey
Highwire Days – Psychedelic Furs
Birdhouse In Your Soul – They Might Be Giants
Konichiwa, Bitches – Robyn
Planet Earth – Duran Duran
What You Need – INXS
Hands Off She’s Mine – English Beat
Ice Machine – Depeche Mode

     Not a bad selection of music, right? I thought so, too, but it just didn’t work out. Not even a little. I went back to Devo and couldn’t be happier. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a familiarity and rhythm to the various Devo albums that provide a context for my cooking.

     With songs like “Big Mess” blasting through the speakers, I put together a kick ass, Tuscan inspired Pappa al Pomodoro. It takes a while to chop the fennel, basil, onion and carrots, but the work is worth it. The next time a friend gets sick or needs a pick-me-up, I’m making a batch of this and taking it over.

Pappa Al Pomodoro Garnished with Ciabatta Crutons, Toasted Prosciutto and Crispy Basil

Serves 8-10

½ cup olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (2-3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and medium-diced (1 ½ cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta bread
2 (28 ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes
4 cups (32 ounces) chicken stock
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For The Topping
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta bread
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
24-30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onions, carrots, fennel and garlic, then cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until tender.

2. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes.

3. Place the tomatoes in the food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. (See notes.) Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper.

4. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes. You may have to adjust the heat lower during the 45 minutes.

5. Prior to service, beat the soup with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the parmesan and season to taste. Finally, add the topping. (see below)

For The Topping
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place the ciabatta, prosciutto and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Keep them separate since they will be ready at different times. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark as they crisp, but that’s okay. Because the prosciutto is thinly sliced, it must be watched carefully.

While it's just fine to pulse the tomatoes, it's more traditional to put the tomatoes in whole. You can easily crush them with your spoon in your soup bowl. Place the prosciutto in the freezer for 1 hour prior to chopping it. Otherwise, the meat will tear as you cut it. You can also reserve some of the leftover ciabatta to dip in the soup.

Also, there is a lot of acid in this soup due to the tomatoes. If you have a sensitive stomach, an antacid might be a good idea before or after the meal.


  1. I'm watching Extreme Pigout on the Travel channel at the moment. I love their Extreme theme shows. I'll probably make the Pappa al Pomodoro for my family later this week. I made a taco soup for them last week and they loved it. I'm an old Devo fan too and like to listen to a cd, Devo or not, while I'm cooking as well. Keep on cooking!

  2. Right on Chris. I like the food stuff they have on the Travel channel, too. I like Bourdain's "No Reservations." Soup in the fall is awesome. I hope your family enjoys the recipe. :)