Touted as the ultimate summer soup by the Tuscans who invented it, I can’t think of a better winter supper than pappa al pomodoro.  This is my favorite soup to order at San Francisco’s beloved Zuni Café – the crusty bread melts into the tomato basil for a deliciously straightforward soup/sauce concoction.  While Zuni’s head-chef, Judy Rogers, modestly describes pappa al pomodoro as an “easy dish to make when you have too many ripe tomatoes, a half loaf of yesterday’s bread, and not much else,” Barefoot Contessa’s adaptation is anything but simple.  The Contessa adds carrots, onions, fennel, dry red wine and pancetta to the pot, heightening the traditional recipe to an entirely new level of culinary complexity.    

The first time I had this version of pappa al pomodoro was at an impromptu SF Giants game-watching dinner party hosted by my good friend Cameron.  The terribly thick fog blanketing our fair city called for something to eviscerate the chill, and the pappa couldn’t have been more perfect.  Not one to labor for hours on end in the kitchen, Cameron described the creation as one that is extremely easy to prepare.  Moreover, she’s made it so many times that she’s developed her own variations – her favorite being the addition of sweet Italian sausage. 

I have since replicated the Contessa-Cameron version several times myself.  As I’m certain many of my fellow Williams-Sonoma aficionados will understand – this delectable soup instantly calls to mind the warm and flavorful scent that envelopes you upon entering one of their ubiquitous stores.  Mmmm…  xx tt

Recipe – adapted from Barefoot Contessa


·  ½ cup olive oil + 3 tablespoons for topping

·  2 yellow onions

·  3 carrots

·  1 fennel bulb

·  4 cloves garlic

·  1 ciabatta loaf

·  2 28-ounce cans good Italian plum tomatoes (if you do not have a food processer, get pre-pureed tomatoes)

·  4 cups chicken broth/stock

·  ½ cup dry red wine

·  1 cup freshly chopped basil leaves + 20 whole fresh basil leaves

·  Kosher salt + pepper

·  ½ cup freshly grated parmesan

·  2 ounces thickly slice pancetta

·  2 Italian sausages (sweet or spicy)

·  Parmesan ¼ by 1-inch slices


·  Remove sausage from casings, cook in a frying pan while breaking up into smaller pieces with a spatula

·  In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat ½ cup olive oil over medium heat

·  Dice onions and carrots, add to the stockpot

·  Cut the tips off fennel, cut out the core, and dice – add to the stockpot

·  Either chop garlic finely, or push through a garlic press – add to the stockpot

·  Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes

·  Cut ciabatta in half, and slice one half into one-inch cubes with crusts, the other half without crusts – set crusty cubes aside, and add crustless cubes to the stockpot – cook for 5 minutes

·  If you have a food processor, place the tomatoes into the bowl and pulse until pureed, and add to the stockpot – if not, add your pre-pureed tomatoes into the stockpot

·  Add the cooked sausage, chicken broth/stock, red wine, chopped basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 + ½ teaspoon pepper

·  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes partially covered

·  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees

·  Chop the pancetta

·  Add pancetta, crusty bread, and basil leaves to a bowl – toss with salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons olive oil

·  Place on a baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes in the oven

·  When the soup is done simmering, whisk it until the bread is completely broken up and disappears into the soup

·  Stir in ½ cup parmesan cheese

·  Ladle into bowls, and top with crisp basil, pancetta, croutons, and a small slice of parmesan