Barefoot Bloggers ~ Pappa Al Pomidoro

Natalie over at Burned Bits chose this weeks Barefoot Bloggers recipe, Pappa Al Pomidoro. I have to say, I was a little concerned about this one. I don't use fennel very often and am not a huge fan of the taste. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I couldn't taste it at all. The soup was hearty filled with garlic, tomatoes and basil. The bread was another wonderful surprise. The crouton were fabulous, I mean it's basically toasted bread with basil. Who doesn't love that?? It was a very filling lunch option for us today and the family gave it a huge thumbs up! Give it a try and see what you think.

Bon Appetite!
PS check out the Barefoot Bloggers here.
Pappa Al Pomidoro

recipe by Ina Garten

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

or the topping:
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. 

Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, 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 cubes, 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 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. 

Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. 

Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.