Italy boasts a rich tradition of bread soups, which is born of necessity: In the past people were much too poor to throw away stale, hardened bread. They, therefore, had to devise clever, frugal ways to make it edible again; one of the most obvious (and tasty) ways is to work it into a soup. One important thing: You will need a hearty, country-style Italian bread of the sort baked directly on an oven floor or a pizza stone, with a firm crust and dense crumb that can take being soaked in water... without becoming a sticky paste. American-style white sandwich bread, what Italians call pane in cassetta, won't work in these recipes.
[Edited by Danette St. Onge]
01 of 05Acquacotta literally means cooked water, and is one of the classic soups of the Tuscan Maremma. The dish is generally served as a one course meal, and in the past was eaten in the field by shepherds and stockmen -- peasant food, in short. As is the case with any regional dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks.
02 of 05Minestra di pane and ribollita are two of the best uses for sliced Tuscan bread (crusty, firm of crumb, and without salt) I have ever come across. Tuscans make this hearty winter soup with beans and cavolo nero, black leaf kale, a long-leafed variety of winter cabbage whose leaves are a very dark purplish green. When it's reheated the next day, Minestra di Pane becomes Ribollita, and is even better!
03 of 05
Cacciucco alla LivorneseCacciucco is actually a hearty fish stew made with whatever the fishmonger had leftover at the end of the day -- a bit of this, a bit of that, and the more variety the better. But it wouldn't be quite right without toasted bread rubbed with garlic to line the soup bowls, and I therefore consider it a bread soup.
04 of 05
Zuppa di Pan CottoA pair of South Italian recipes that are extremely simple: One is bread, water, and herbs, while the other gains a little substance from some lightly beaten egg. Peasant food of the highest order, and they're also easy to digest, which makes them ideal for coping with an upset stomach.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Zuppa LombardaZuppa Lombarda is actually a Tuscan soup, which is made by serving beans in their bean broth, with thin slices of toasted bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Sounds and is very simple, but is also very good.