This is the first of a mini-series about the tastes and textures of the part of Italy that is dearest to me, the region from the Brenta mountain range to the spectacular Dolomites of the South Tyrol.
The Panada is essentially bread soup. It is the perfect way to use stale bread–we never throw it away. It can be made in several different ways, but I’ll give here my favorite type.
Ingredients for 2 people:
- Two portions of stale bread–the equivalent of 6-7 slices from a loaf
- A scoop of butter
- Anything you want to throw in–my favorite is mushrooms. Leftovers OK (e.g. yesterday’s chicken breast, cut into small chunks).
- 3 cups of good broth–veg, chicken or beef
- Grated cheese (any kind–Fontina works marvelously)
- Salt & pepper
Cut the bread (or saw it, depending on how hard it is) into big chunks while the butter melts in a casserole. When the butter is melted, add about 80% of the bread + any other ingredient you want to heat up, and stir for about 5 minutes until the bread absorbs the butter and gets a little blonde. Next, add the broth, the salt and the pepper, cover and let simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, take the rest of the bread–which you haven’t cooked–and cut it into small crouton-size bites.
Get a nice ladle and pour the Panada into soup-bowls. Cover each portion with croutons and then with grated cheese. The double texture of the soaken, warm bread and the crispy and cooler croutons are going to make an interesting contrast to the mouth.
Note: If desired, once the whole has cooked (minus the croutons), it can be put in a blender and pureed, then returned to the casserole for two minutes, then served. While the taste remains the same, this “cucina povera” dish suddenly takes on the appearance of a something you’d find in a nouveau cuisine restaurant, especially if topped with a couple whole leaves of sage or basil.