Zuppa di Vongole e Pancotto

This superb soup might be better described as a thin stew rather than a thick soup. Serve Zuppa di Vongole e Pancotto (zoo-pah dee vawn-goh-lay ay pan-cot-toh) with mixed salad and well-chilled white wine for a filling lunch or supper.

4 fl. oz. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

6 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped

6 fl. oz. white wine

16 fl. oz. fish stock

2 ½ lb. frozen or canned clams, thawed or drained

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 oz. butter, softened

4 slices French or Italian bread, toasted

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and 2 garlic cloves and fry, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 3 minutes or until they have pulped slightly.

Pour over the wine and fish stock and bring the liquid to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture for

20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the clams, salt, pepper and basil and continue to simmer the mixture for a further

15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining garlic and the butter, beating well to blend. Generously spread the butter over the toasted bread and place one slice on the bottom of each of 4 warmed serving bowls. Remove the pan from the heat and ladle the soup over the bread. Serve at once.

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