I’ll admit it – I’ve seen this recipe in just about every italian cook-book I own and always skimmed over it giving it little consideration.(And I can’t believe I’m alone in this!)
It’s hardly surprising given the extremely basic nature of the ingredients – but I have learned over the years that one of the great features of Italian cuisine is how damn delicious the most un-inspiring sounding dishes can be once tried (see my post on Pasta with anchovies for further proof).
The list of ingredients is full-on Italian peasant storecupboard – tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, bread and basil being the mainstay of this dish. I was motivated to try this today as a quick and easy lunch after reading Simon Hopkinson’s description of it in the brilliant ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’. I’m glad I did. Full credit to Mr Hopkinson for the recipe – which I have adapted here slightly. (I have included a dash of balsamic, sugar and used a can of chopped toms instead of fresh. The bread was some ‘ageing’ sourdough from my last baking.)
I urge you to try this – the texture is wonderful and the flavours much more dense and complex that you would expect – and it just has to be good for you. A comforting, invigorating dish – best served warm, not hot, and finished with a dressing of good virgin olive oil and shaved parmesan cheese.
Glug some good oil into a saucepan, make up a pint of chicken stock (cube is OK) and finely chop or crush 3 garlic cloves with salt. Warm the oil and gently stew the garlic in the saucepan until just golden. Tip in the tomatoes – they will splutter – and add a teaspoon of sugar, the chicken stock and a bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and leave it alone for 5 mins. while you deal with the bread.
2 thick slices of an old rustic bread (I guess a ciabatta would be OK – I used sourdough). Cut of the crusts, roughly dice and then add to the soup. Let it break down as the soup simmers (I used a potato masher to get the texture I wanted). What you’re after is a porridge like consistency verging on the loose side – not too stodgy. Let this blip away on a low simmer for 10 – 15 mins – while you get 2 big soup bowls warmed up. Drizzle in a scant tablespoon of balsamic vinegar – season to taste – and tear up a good handful of fresh basil, tossed in at the last-minute.
Ladle into your bowls, drizzle with good virgin olive oil and shave over a few strips of parmesan with a vegetable peeler.