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Tomato Pancetta Soup

Tomato Pancetta Soup
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced small
1 small onion, diced
3 cups bread cubes, Ciabatta best
4 cups chicken stock
28 ounces chopped tomatoes (1 large can)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup basil, chopped
Rind of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Heat a large saucepan over medium high, add olive oil and pancetta and sauté until fat is rendered and the pancetta is browned, being careful not to burn it. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add onion to the saucepan and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add cubed bread and toss with onions and olive oil, sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Return ½ of the pancetta back to the saucepan, and add chicken stock, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then puree in a blender or using a stick or immersion blender. Return to saucepan and add basil and Parmigiano Reggiano rind and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix mascarpone and crème fraiche well in a small bowl. Serve soup on large bowls and top each with a dollop of the mascarpone mixture. Divide remaining pancetta and grated Parmigiano Reggiano between the bowls and sprinkle on top.

Feel free to substitute traditional bacon if you prefer the flavor or don’t have pancetta on hand.

Italians make use of left over bread in salads and soups – here it’s used as a thickener and an extender. If you prefer, you can reduce the amount of bread, but the recipe will yield less.