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DigiBites: After A Rough Week In Lamorinda, Chef Charlie Says It’s Time For Pappa

Photo: Epicurean Exchange

Good morning, 24/680.com followers!

Chef Charlie

Sharing a favorite recipe we discovered in San Gimignano, Tuscany early this year during my family’s visit. This authentic Tuscan-style soup was created with my chef-friend, Sarah Fioroni, of Fattoria Poggio Alloro, seen in the photo in the black apron; surrounded by my family and our friends Amy and Jim Smith and their kids from Lafayette. This group includes my wife and twins, Aidan and Amelia and the Smith’s twins, Tyler and Maddie, who are just one week older than ours. So… 4 17-year-olds, a 13 and 8 year old, and their parents – needless say, it was a blast!

Photo: Epicurean Exchange. That’s me, Chef Charlie, in the middle with the rolling pin. I have no idea what I am singing!

With that back story, another one to connect it all together:

Last night, I hosted a cooking class and dinner in San Jose with families from Canyon Heights Academy. Together we gathered to prepare – from scratch – an authentic Tuscan Autumn menu, including the same Tuscan Tomato Soup with Basil (Pappa Al Pomodoro) we made in Italy. Its full-circle in my world, and I love sharing great recipes from my talented and creative partners around the globe!

These frequent dinners, now a tradition, began several years ago when I met the Legionnaires of Christ community in Cupertino through a family who’s daughter passed away from breast cancer. We gather regularly to celebrate her life and to support the families who continue to share her legacy with the community.

This evening and others like it, are important to me. Together we celebrate food, friends, and life through the simple art of cooking and most importantly, sharing the table and a meal we created together! I thank all my friends at Canyon Heights Academy and all the other worthy causes we are blessed to work with allowing us to give back, and make a difference!

To learn more about our giving back program and how we can support your worthy cause, contact Chef Charlie directly via our website.

With that, I hope you can make this delicious soup, share it with family and friends, and enjoy some quality time around your table!
Buon Appetito!
– Chef Charlie

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato Soup with Basil)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, cut into a 1/2-inch dice

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 – 24 ounce cans whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes, with juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 loaf Semifreddi Ciabatta bread (closest to a traditional Tuscan-style bread), crust removed and bread torn into 1-inch pieces. Half to be blended into soup, the other half to be made into croutons for garnish

12 fresh basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch pieces

2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

•     Heat the olive oil a stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
•     Add the canned tomatoes, bread, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring the liquid to a simmer and then decrease the heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.
•     Make the croutons: place the torn bread, drizzled with a little olive oil, on a sheet pan and toast in a 350˚F oven for about 10 minutes until crisp.

 •     Purée the soup in a blender until smooth, but left with a bit of texture (somewhat chunky).

 •     Add the basil leaves and stir to combine.  Let simmer for 5 minutes more, and adjust seasoning. 

•     Serve garnished with croutons, freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, torn basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4

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