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Wednesday, August 08, 2007



I love checking out cookbooks from the library and learning new ways to eat things I already like. One of the recipes I found was for pancotto, an Italian soup that uses stale bread as dumplings of sorts in a tomato and garlic broth. It's a nice vegan soup, and there are many variations on the web that involve up to half a dozen vegetables. I've made the simplest version several times. I was going to post a link to the closest version I could find, but none of them are as simple as the version I use, so I'll give you my approach from memory. The basic recipe for the soup is:

-4 cups of water or veggie broth
-a few cloves of garlic, minced
-an onion, diced
-crushed red pepper, to taste (maybe half a teaspoon?)
-2 pounds or so of ripe tomatoes, diced
-a small handful each of of basil and parsley, shredded
-four slices or so of good, stale bread.

All you need to do is sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes, add the broth, bring it to a boil, and simmer it with the tomatoes and bread for 15 - 20 minutes until the bread has absorbed most of the soup. Then you can mix in the fresh herbs, let them simmer for a moment or two, and serve. It's simple, warm, and is a great way to use up overripe tomatoes and bread that has gone hard.

I recall that the original version of the recipe required that the tomatoes be blanched, peeled, and deseeded, but tomatoes here in California are pretty thin-skinned, and the seeds aren't much of a problem. But if it would bother you, take those out.

There are many variations of this recipe on the web involving green beans, zucchini, potatoes, and other combinations of vegetables and herbs. There are two nice vegetarian variations of bread soup at the site of Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes (, along with one meat variation, and tips for customizing the recipes according to whatever is fresh and in season. Which is really more important than the specifics of any recipe, since the freshness of the ingredients is what makes simple foods so satisfying.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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