From Gabe McMackin/Roberta’s Pizza
Serves 20 (?)
[Ed: Gabe bristled when I called this “pizza soup” – but I think he was just joking. “This soup is ridiculous. Super, super good,” he writes now, and gets no argument from me. It is rustic and simple and seriously full of sunny flavor. Adds Gabe, “It’s a great platform if you want to put other things in it like mussels, it’s great if you just want to eat it solo. It’s great with a chunk of smoked pork or a prosciutto rind in there, and it’s great vegan.” This recipe is supersized for Soup and Bread; you may want to adjust quantities for home cooking, unless you have a family of hungry Italian wolves living with you.]
Ingredients2 #10 cans peeled San Marzano tomatoes – best quality – lightly crushed by hand, cores removed 3 loaves ciabatta, crusts peeled off (at least bottom crust), torn into 2-inch chunks, very, very stale 1 firm head garlic, sliced 1 tablespon fennel seed 1 tablespoon chili flakes 2 jalapeno or serrano peppers 4 -6 quarts vegetable stock (or more, to taste) 2 cups best quality extra virgin olive oil salt pepper Reggiano parmesan – a chunk for grating and the rind for the soup basil
Heat a big ass pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the garlic, and cook until it gets fragrant and starts to color. Add the fennel seed, chili, and jalapeno and cook for a few seconds more.
Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, basil, and parm rind if you’re using one and bring to a boil. Knock the heat back to a simmer, and let it cook for a half hour or so to pull out some of the acid. Stir.
Add your bread. This shit better be S.T.A.L.E. It picks up better flavor, and if it’s not stale it reverts by some clever means of punishing you to big ass knots of raw dough. It’s tough and gnarly and gross. So let it get stale. If you need to, dry it out in a low oven. Rather have a bit of color on the bread than moisture in it.
Let the bread soak up some tomato, then start adding your stock. It’ll need a lot. And it’ll keep needing more. Start with a few quarts, maybe 3, then see what happens. Reseason. Stir. A lot. The bread will burn on the bottom if you’re not careful and your soup will be bitter and the children will cry and it’ll be terrible. So stir. Bring it up to a simmer, let the bread get really hydrated, and let the flavors gush around with each other, add more stock if you want.
The soup is basically done. You can let it ride as is, or you can throw a couple of pounds of mussels in and let them cook in the soup. Microplane a lemon or two in there, it’s brilliant. Before you serve it, toss in a bunch of basil, stir through, and that’s it. Ladle it out, Parm it up, drape it with lardo, slivered cerignola olives, whatever. It’s good.