I absolutely LOVE grilled cheese and tomato soup. We had it for lunch every friday when I lived in my sorority house in college. It's so comforting and will make any stomach ache or headache go away (if you get what I mean...). I was going to make tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner the other night but I just wasn't in the mood for so much cheese and I really wanted to try something new. I got the inspiration for this meal from Barefoot Contessa's Pappa Al Pomodoro. It's essentially a baked tomato soup with ciabatta bread cooked in the soup. It's PHENOMENAL! I had to add some of my own twists to it like pancetta and garlic croutons on top. Because it is going to cook for such a long time, you really should use a dutch oven (my mom just bought me the most adorable Martha Stewart dutch oven and I was just too excited to use it!). If you don't have one, use the biggest pot you have. Top with some parmesan cheese and chopped basil and you have a fabulous weeknight meal.
What you'll need:
1 loaf ciabatta bread (cut into cubes, minus 3 slices reserved for topping)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onions, chopped finely
3 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped (tops trimmed off)
6 cloves garlic, 5 minced one left whole
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes (no salt added)
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 package chopped pancetta
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1. Cut the vegetables and ciabatta.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Sauté the onions, carrots, minced garlic, and fennel on low heat for about 10 minutes. Once the onions are translucent and soft, add the bread cubes and cook for another few minutes.
3. Add the canned tomatoes, wine, and chicken stock to the pot and use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and the chopped basil.
4. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered for 45-50 minutes.
5. While the soup is cooking, toast the slices of the bread in the oven. When the bread is still hot, rub with the fresh garlic clove. Cut into cubes and set aside.
6. Sauté the pancetta over medium heat, until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
7. After the soup is finished, use an immersion blender for just a minute, until the soup is medium chunky-smooth.
8. Top with the pancetta, parmesan cheese, and garlic croutons.