Recipe is courtesy of The Panera Bread Cookbook
Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York, New York
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-28 ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1 quart water or vegetable stock
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 small loaf Artisan white bread, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
1. With a mortar and pestle, mash the basil well with 1/2 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, this step can be done in a food processor. To preserve the rustic taste and appearance of this infused oil, take care to pulse the ingredients very gently. Set the mashed basil oil aside.
2. In an 8 quart stockpot, heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano just until the garlic begins to sizzle.
3. Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the stockpot, including all juices that come from the tomatoes.
4. Add the water or stock, and red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
5. Stir in the bread and remove from the heat. Serve immediately, drizzling the hot soup liberally with the mashed basil oil.
6. If you do not plan on serving and eating the entire pot of soup in one sitting, I would suggest that you add the amount of bread you would like to the individual bowls of soup. I also added a little grated Parmesan cheese to my bowl of soup.
* To freeze for an easy meal later:
Allow the soup to cool, without adding the bread or basil oil. Pour the soup into freezer containers, place the bread cubes in zip-top bags, and pour the basil oil into ice cube trays. After the basil oil is frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a zip-top bag in the freezer right next to the bread cubes and soup (to jog your memory 3 weeks from now). You now have an easy dinner with none of the work. Enjoy!