Zuppa alla Pavese is a soup made with stock, bread and eggs. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, this soup is regarded as a real delicacy and I totally agree with this opinion. The recipe comes from Pavia, a city not far from Milan, and it seems that it was invented by a farmer during the time of the “la battaglia di Pavia” in 1525 (the battle of Pavia). The legend says that the king of France, Francis I, lost the battle against the emperor Charles V, and tired and wounded found refuge in a farm where he was served with this soup. Whether the legend is true or false, it doesn’t matter; certainly the recipe is very old and probably traces back to a few centuries ago, when wars and plagues made the food scarce and people were forced to cook with what they had. It’s a very nourishing soup that I usually prepare for lunch during cold weather.
1 Large slice of bread
1 Beef stock cube (to be dissolved in 3/4 pint - 1 3/4 cups of boiling water)
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous knob of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
These are Imperial and Metric measurements. U.S measurements available at italyum.com
Nutrition facts: Calories
650 per serving.
Note 1: the ingredients in the list are for one person, but if you have guests, always consider 2 eggs and 1 slice of bread per person. About the stock, I had all the 3/4 pint - 1 3/4 cups for myself so, in case of guests, prepare more stock.
Note 2: eggs must be absolutely fresh (ideally use free range organic eggs).
Note 3: in the past, stale bread was used for this recipe. Use whatever bread you want but a home made loaf of countryside bread is the best bet!
Before we start, put your oven proof dish in the oven because we need it hot for a later stage (you can set the oven to the minimum, but I recommend the use of oven gloves when it is time to take the dish out of the oven). Next, cut a slice of bread.
Remove the hard crust and cut the big slice in two parts.
Prepare the stock, dissolving the stock cube in 3/4 pint of boiling water.
Now, take a shallow pan (a frying pan will do the job) and melt the butter.
Fry the bread until both the sides are golden brown.
This is the kind of colour we have to achieve.
Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.
Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.
Break the eggs over the bread.
Now, a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
The dish is ready for the adding of the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it into the dish.
We add the stock to cover. The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the dish alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.
With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is it and I cannot change the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or old people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them onto the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a grill, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread. Try it and find the solution that best suits you.
Feel free to add some ground black pepper if you wish.