Cherry Tomato and Garlic Bread Soup

When Caterina de’ Medici arrived at the royal court of France in the sixteenth century, she introduced homely Italian bread soup, thereby elevating it from peasant fare to the menu of kings. For the rest of us, this panade is a treat when spiked with novelty cherry and currant tomatoes.

Yields 8 portions


1 loaf levain bread, sliced ¼ inch thick

¼ cup pure olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan and brushing the toast

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved plus ½ cup thinly sliced garlic cloves

4 cups thinly sliced onions

2 ½ quarts chicken stock

Salt to taste

Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

2 pints cherry, grape, and currant tomatoes

¼ pound Parmesan cheese, grated

¾ cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

Basil chiffonade (for garnish)

Chopped flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Brush the slices of bread with olive oil on both sides, then toast on baking sheet in oven until golden brown on both sides. Be sure to flip the slices halfway through toasting. When toasted, brush the cut sides of the garlic gently across all surfaces of the toast. Maintain oven temperature.
  • In the meantime, heat the ¼ cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook the onions until slightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until tender. Reserve.
  • Season the chicken stock with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside 1 quart (4 cups) of the stock; the remaining 6 cups will be used to cook the panade.
  • In a lightly oiled 2 ½ quart ovenproof glass or pottery baking dish, layer half of the toast. Spoon or spread half of the onion mixture over the toast, add half of the tomatoes, and sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan cheese and all of the basil on top. Repeat layer with the remaining half of toast, onion mixture, tomatoes, and half of the remaining cheese.
  • Add 3 cups of the stock and wait 5 minutes for the bread to absorb the stock, then add one cup more. Repeat until the bread looks like a wrung-out sponge. Finally, sprinkle the top of the bread with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Gently remove the aluminum foil (it may have stuck to the cheese, so be careful). Increase the heat to 400 degrees and continue baking the panade until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
  • Cut into 8 servings.
  • Reheat the reserved chicken stock in a pot.
  • To serve, place a portion of panade in each bowl. Ladle a few ounces of stock around (not over) the panade. Garnish with chopped basil and parsley.