Are you as dog-dead tired as I am?

We’ve been wassailing and making merry for two weeks and seven parties so far, and I’m ready to park my jingle bells on the couch. I’m ready to watch a marathon of “House” or “Law and Order.” I’m ready to go to bed without having to pick the glitter off my face.

And I’m so ready for another bowl of Ina Garten’s Pappa Al Pomidoro, one of this month’s Barefoot Bloggers picks. Warm, thick and full of flavor, this Tuscan bread-and-tomato soup is just the thing to sneak a few vitamins and minerals into a body that’s grown strangely accustomed to copious amounts of cheese straws and coconut cake. You’ll start by heating your aromatics–onions, carrots, fennel and garlic–in half a cup of good olive oil. Toss in a few handfuls of ciabatta cubes and a couple of cans of Italian plum tomatoes. Add chicken stock, red wine, basil, salt and pepper, bring everything to a boil, and then let it simmer for about 45 minutes.

You know it wouldn’t be a Barefoot Contessa recipe if it stopped there. While the soup is simmering, scatter ciabatta cubes, pancetta and fresh basil on a sheet pan. Drizzle them with olive oil, and let them crisp inside the oven. (Don’t freak out if you’re basil turns black. Perfectly normal.) Once the soup is done, stir in some freshly grated Parmesan, sprinkle on the topping, and add a little extra olive

Ina’s Pappa Al Pomidoro turns out to be a study in complements: the way the crispy crunchiness of the topping livens up the dense bready soup, the salty pancetta tempers the sweet brightness of the tomatoes, and the way the basil and olive oil in the topping and the soup meld the flavors together.

It’s a soup that’s worth the trouble. Even if you have one more Christmas party to go.

Pappa Al Pomidoro

From Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics”

Serves 6

  • 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

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper
  1. 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.
  2. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. 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.