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      RECIPE TITLE "Tomato, Bread, and Parmesan Soup"
    recipe from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, & One-Pot Meals Copyright © 2003 by Tom Valenti and Andrew Friedman

    yields Serves 8 time --- difficultyeasy

    A beguiling and seamless blend of tomatoes, bread, and broth, tomato-and-bread soup is a robust, soulful dish. It's one of those classic Italian preparations that make use of foods that have outlived their usefulness for most people, in this case stale bread and overripe tomatoes.

    My tomato-and-bread soup is made deliberately thick with sourdough bread, which is not the conventional choice, but whose distinct flavor goes well with tomatoes and lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If you've ever read in cookbooks that you should save Parmesan rinds for another use, this is the ultimate one -- the rind infuses the entire soup with an authentic Italian flavor.

    I make this recipe at the height of tomato season in late summer, when tomatoes are so ripe they crack open. But you can turn to other resources in the winter (see page 245).

      RECIPE INGREDIENTS

    • 4 pounds very ripe beefsteak or Jersey tomatoes, peeled (page 245) and cut into 1-inch cubes
    • Coarse salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Sugar
    • One 8-ounce block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
    • 1/2 medium Spanish onion, peeled and cut into small dice
    • 1 stalk celery, cut into small dice
    • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
    • 2 quarts store-bought, reduced-sodium vegetable broth or homemade Vegetable Stock (page 244)
    • 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves day-old (or two- or three-day-old) sourdough or peasant bread, crust discarded, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
    • Basil Oil (page 229) or Pesto (page 228), optional

      RECIPE METHOD

    1. Thirty minutes before you want to cook, put the tomatoes and their liquid in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Grate the cheese and reserve the rind and cheese separately.

    2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until hot but not yet smoking. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and a pinch of sugar and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables.

    3. Add the broth and the cheese rind and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tomatoes with their liquid. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to liquefy and the soup returns to a boil.

    4. Lower the heat and simmer until the tomatoes break down completely and the soup begins to thicken, about 40 minutes. Remove and discard the cheese rind. Add the bread cubes and cook, stirring to break them down, for about 15 minutes. If not serving immediately, let cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to 1 month. Reheat before proceeding.

    5. Stir in the grated cheese until the soup becomes as thick and flavorful as you like. Personally, I like it as thick as porridge with lots of cheesy flavor; I'd use about a cup of grated cheese. But if you like a lighter touch, feel free to hold back on the cheese.

    6. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls, hot or at room temperature, garnishing each serving with a few grinds of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and extra grated cheese, if available. You can also top each serving with basil oil or pesto, if desired.

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