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A Tuscan Onion Soup Recipe - Cipollata: A (Sort of) Frugal Onion Soup

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I recently came across a collection of traditional Tuscan recipes, which set me thinking. This particular recipe is introduced as a "poor cousin" of onion soup, and it may have been in its original form out on a farm (where it would have been just onion and tomato), but as some point it gained a third of a pound (150 g) of Parmigiano, which would have been more than many farmers could have afforded 50 years ago.
We're better off now, and this will be good. To serve 6:

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1k ) red onions (winter onions in Tuscany, white will also work)
  • 2 scant cups (400 ml) tomato sauce; commercial will be fine
  • A 1-ounce (25 g) slice of pancetta, diced
  • Olive oil
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 3 cups (150 g) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 quart (1 liter) boiling water
  • Toasted bread -- Tuscan if possible

Preparation:

If the onions are sharp, slice them and soak them overnight in lightly salted water. If they're sweeter, this step won't be necessary.

Heat a quarter cup of olive oil in a pot, preferably terracotta, though metal will work, sauté the pancetta until it is lightly browned, and add the onion (drain it well if you soaked it). Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the basil leaves, cover, and let the onions simmer until they are pale and translucent. Add the tomato and the boiling water, mix, check seasoning, and simmer covered for 90 minutes.

While you are waiting, toast several slices of bread and use them to line your soup bowls.

When the time is up, remove the soup from the fire, and briskly stir in the grated cheese and the eggs; the soup will thicken immediately. Check seasoning a last time, ladle the soup into the bowls, and serve at once.

Yield: 4-6 servings Tuscan Cipollata, a poor cousin of onion soup.

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