Zuppa Valdostana is a traditional, rustic soup originating from the Valle d’Aosta.
A veritable meal-in-a-bowl, it is perfect for hungry skiers seeking a seat by the fire and a heart-warming meal between runs.
It comprises hearty chunks of bread and finely shredded cabbage in a rich broth, covered in melted Fontina cheese.
Fontina is a speciality of the Italian Alps. It was first created in the Valle d’Aosta in the 13th century, and remains one of northern Italy’s best loved cheeses – mild, rich and almost nutty in flavour. The mature version is quite hard; the younger, soft cheese is perfect for melting.
If you can’t find Fontina at your local cheesemonger, Gruyère makes a delicious substitute in this recipe.
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
1 medium napa or savoy cabbage, slivered
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 pints of homemade chicken stock (beef stock also works well)
4-8 slices crusty country bread (from a 2 day old loaf is ideal)
Fontina (or Gruyère) cheese, grated or thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Heat the butter and oil in a large pan. Add the diced onions to the pan and stir well to coat. Cover the pan and let the onions simmer gently, stirring every few minutes until they are just transparent. Add the cabbage and stir well. Cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally,until the cabbage has wilted.
Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper and enough stock to cover all the other ingredients. Return the soup to a gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and cook for 40 minutes. Season to taste.
Lightly toast the bread slices. Place a slice in the bottom of each (oven-proof!) soup bowl and cover with cheese. Ladle the soup over the bread, then position another slice of bread on the top and pile the cheese on top. Place the bowls under the grill (or in the oven) until the cheese is golden, melted and bubbling.
To serve, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and pair it with a green salad, tossed with a punchy vinaigrette.
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