A hearty meal that’s ready in just 30 minutes
I have to confess I really didn’t know as much as I thought I did about Italian cuisine until I went to cooking school in Tuscany. It’s a time I think of fondly almost every single day as I work in my home kitchen and one of the lessons that really stuck with me was that humble food can be just as memorable and impressive as the fanciest fare around. This rustic soup is a tribute to the traditions of the peasants of Tuscany, who long ago found inventive ways to use up everything they could grow (hello, stuffed zucchini flowers!) and made sure that no leftovers ever went to waste, a lesson many of us would do well to heed today. I based this recipe on the delicious Tuscan bread salad known as Panzanella and it’s the perfect way to use up yesterday’s baguette or crusty bread.
- 2 leeks, white parts only
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
- Approximately 10 Roma (plum) tomatoes (to yield 4 cups / 1 L of purée) *
- 2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced button mushrooms (optional but delicious)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda
- 3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) balsamic
- 3 cups (750 mL) day-old bread, cut in 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
- 1/3 cup (90 mL) chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
* substitute with 4 cups / 1 litre of Passata (commercial tomato purée)
- Slice the leeks lengthwise and rinse under cool, running water. Thinly slice crosswise.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat; add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more.
- While leeks and mushrooms are cooking, purée the tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add to the pot along with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, baking soda, stock and balsamic. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add half the basil and the bread cubes.
- As soon as the bread has softened (about 2 minutes), ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Top with remaining basil and, if you like, a splash of good-quality olive oil.