Michele: I’m always looking at things in a different way, and I’ve been in the food industry for a really long time where my primary goal was innovation. You know, coming up with things that the competition isn't doing…Turning dishes into soup just kind of came to me one day.
Serves 4 to 6
12 ounces pancetta, chopped into very small pieces
2 cups diced yellow onions (about 1 medium onion)
¼ cup chopped garlic (9 to 10 cloves)
2 cups lightly packed chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup tomato paste
1 cup vodka
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cans (14.5 ounces) whole or diced tomatoes
1 cup roasted red pepper, drained, no seeds (about 8 ounces)
¼ cup Garlic Confit cloves (recipe in cookbook and also here)
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups pennette (mini penne) or other small pasta such as orecchiette or ditalini (10 ounces)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (optional topping)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional topping)
Prepare Garlic Confit if you do not have any on hand.
Cook pancetta: Place pancetta in 6-quart (or larger) pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Slowly cook it until it becomes crispy and most of the fat has been rendered. (This could take 15 to 20 minutes.) Remove pancetta with slotted spoon and set it aside to drain on paper towels. Remove all but about 3 tablespoons of rendered fat from the pot and use for other purpose or discard. Leave enough fat to cover bottom of pot.
Add onions, garlic, 1 cup basil, and crushed red pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until onions have softened a bit, stirring occasionally.
Move onion mixture to one side of pot. Then add tomato paste and cook it for about 30 seconds. Remove pot from heat. Then pour in vodka and stir to loosen and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pot.
Return pot to heat and add broth, tomatoes, roasted peppers, Garlic Confit, salt, and black pepper. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Cover pot and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer, partially covered, for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until all vegetables have softened. Reduce heat to low and carefully purée mixture until smooth using an immersion blender.
Increase heat and return mixture to a simmer. Add pasta and stir well. Simmer until pasta is al dente, using instructions on pasta package as a guideline, stirring continuously so that pasta doesn’t stick or get clumpy. Taste pasta along the way to monitor its doneness.
Once pasta is al dente, reduce heat to low. Then whisk in cream and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring. Add additional liquid if you want a brothier soup. Stir in ¾ of the crispy pancetta and remaining 1 cup basil, then turn off heat.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with remaining crispy pancetta and optional toppings, if desired.
Recipe Notes from Michele
If you aren’t able to find pancetta, bacon is an acceptable substitute.
You can easily make this soup vegetarian by omitting the pancetta or low-carb by omitting the pasta.
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