Skip to main content

Delicious! Parmigiano Reggiano-Blanketed Carabaccia #FoodieReads

I picked up this book because I have long been a Ruth Reichl fan. And she always inspires me into the kitchen. I made Butternut Squash Soup a la Bonneville after reading Comfort Me With Apples. I served Aushak (Afghani Scallion Dumplings) after reading Garlic and Sapphires. And I even went to hear her speak one evening with Nancy Silverton and Evan Kleiman.

So, it's no surprise that Delicious! A Novel* finally made off my bookshelf. What is a surprise: I neglected to see the 'a novel' designation and was about a dozen pages in when I realized that this, unlike all of her other books, was not autobiographical.

On the Page

Once I realized that this was a novel, the thought that crossed my mind: Can Ruth Reichl, food editor extraordinaire, renowned restaurant critic, and accomplished memoir writer pull off a novel? 

Well, yes and no.

Like Reichl, protagonist Billie Breslin transplants herself from the streets of California to the hustle and bustle of New York where she is hired by a Gourmet lookalike magazine titled Delicious. An enigma, Billie has an incredible palate but doesn't cook and, in fact, has anxiety attacks when she enters a kitchen. 

About Billie's palate: "'Curry leaf?' Sal tasted again. 'There isn't one person in a thousand who's even heart of it.' ...'Yeah. Curry leaf doesn't take like anything else. It's alike there's an echo of cinnamon right behind the lemon'" (pg. 22).

We get the backstory of why Billie doesn't cook as the novel progresses. And it's clear that Reichl is writing what she knows - food, food, and more food.

There are some interesting side stories that are reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada (think of a kindly, older gay gentleman who takes the ingenue under his protective wing); there's history about food in the World War II era, a tie in to the Underground Railroad, a historical architecture expert, a epistolary scavenger hunt. Oh, there's also a love story and an ugly duckling thing going on. So, yes, lots to keep track of.

This ended up being a light diversion for a day, but one that tried things up a little too nicely for my tastes. So, while I will continue to read Reichl, I think I'll stick to her non-fiction works. But I am going to try Billie's gingerbread recipe.

In the Bowl

But, as with all of the other Reichl books I've read, I was inspired into the kitchen. In this case, inspiration struck through Billie's sidejob at Sal's cheese shop,  Fontanari's. Billie is the first non-relative that Sal has ever hired, but she quickly becomes family.

"By this time I would have followed him anywhere. He showed me how each wheel was stampled with the month and year, and then he carched the first one open to reveal its pale cream-colored interior. He chipped off a hefty shard and handed it to me. I took a bite, and my mouth filled with the hopeful taste of fresh green grass and young field flowers welcoming the sun. ...'Yes!' Sal was openly delighted. 'I knew you were going to be able to taste how different the cheese is! Most Americans don't even notice, but that cheese is so different that, back in the old days, it was sold under a different name. The Parmesan made from December to March, when the cows were in the barn, was called 'invernego' - winter cheese - because the flavor is so distinct'" (pp. 29-30).

So, I have never noticed any cheese shop making a distinction between Spring and Winter parmesan cheese. But I picked up a chunk of parmigiano reggiano and used it for this recipe: Delicious! Parmigiano Reggiano-Blanketed Carabaccia.

The 'delicious' is in reference to the book, but it is also delicious! This is the Tuscan version of an onion soup. Its first mention was in a 16th century cookbook; it's called carabaccia. I love that it's simply, flavorful, and so filling. I make it about once a week during the winter. But, oddly, this is the first time I've posted the recipe.

Ingredients serves 4 with leftovers

  • 2 pounds organic red onions, peeled and sliced thinly (I use my mandolin slicer)
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil + more for serving
  • 4 to 5 fresh organic sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 t fresh organic thyme leaves
  • 4 to 6 C stock (you can use whatever kind you have, I used a beef stock I'd been simmering for days)
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 C grated cheese, divided  + more for serving
  • 4 slices bread, lightly toasted


In a large pot (I use my Dutch oven), melt butter in 1 T olive oil. Stir in the sage and thyme. Add in the onions and 1 T more olive oil. Gently sweat the onions on lowest heat. Let them cook very gently without letting them brown for approximately 30 minutes. If they begin to get dry or stick just add a splash of stock.

Pour in the stock to cover the onions. Turn the heat up to medium. Bring it to a simmer and cook for another 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed. If you prefer a thicker, stew-like consistency, just turn up the heat and let the liquid reduce to your liking.

Remove the cover on the pot and sprinkle 1/2 C shredded cheese over the top of the soup. Crack the eggs into the simmering soup and sprinkle another 1/2 C shredded cheese over the eggs. Replace the pot cover and cook without stirring. The whites of the eggs should be cooked and the yolks runny—approximately 5 minutes.

While the eggs poach, toast the bread and you can melt some additional cheese on top of them, if you like. I used the remaining 1/2 C cheese on my toasts for a salty, cheese blanket.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and float a Parmigiano Reggiano-Blanketed toast in the bowl.

Spoon an egg over the top of the bread.

Let diners grate even more cheese over the bowl, if they like, and drizzle some olive oil over the soup. Serve hot.

Jake and I poured a Lechthaler Pinot Noir to go with the soup. To the eye, it was a pale garnet red. On the nose, there were notes of red fruit and a yeasty bread that is more typical of white wines. On the palate, the wine was velvety smooth but with delicate tannins. It was a great match for the soup!

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Click to see what everyone else read in January 2020: here.


  1. Soup looks wonderful Cam. I like Riechle too but I think I'll pass on this one.

  2. Wowee that soup looks and sounds delicious!!!! Is it kind of like a French Onion soup, but kicked up several notches??? I love French Onion soup but don't actually know what seasonings go into it. Please hold while I Google...Sounds like the French version calls for white or yellow onions and wine and/or cognac (Julia Child) and doesn't have sage.

    Your Tuscan Carabaccia sounds deeeeeeelicious with the sage and that poached egg on top of the cheesy toasted bread!!!! Yum, yum!

    And I like that I don't have to drive three hours to Little Rock to try to find a decent liquor store to find a good bottle of wine. It will be challenging enough to find parmigiano reggiano in this tiny, two-story town. Siiiiigh. The minute I find a wedge I'm making that soup!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Caulibits Crni Rižoto (Croatian Black "Risotto") #Whole30

Last week, I participated in the Wine Pairing Weekend event 'New Year, New Wine." I paired Crni Rižoto with Dingac Vinarija’s Pelješac...and you can read my post: here . I was pouring a Croatian wine and decided to make a traditional Croatian dish. Every seafood restaurant in Croatia has a  Crni Rižoto  (black risotto) on its menu.  Crni Rižoto  is risotto dyed black with squid ink; I used cuttlefish ink for the same effect. However, since arborio rice is not Whole30 compliant, I made a version for myself that used caulibits instead of rice. Ingredients 1 C fish stock (or a combination of fish stock and vegetable stock) 1 T olive oil 1 medium shallots, peeled and minced 1 cloves garlic, crushed and minced 1/4 lb shrimp 1/4 lb squid tubes, cleaned and sliced into rings 1/4 lb scallops 1/4 lb clams, scrubbed 1/4 lb mussels, scrubbed 4 C caulibits, or chopped cauliflower 1 T fresh parsley, minced juice and zest from 1 organic lemon 1 t cuttlefish ink

Meyer Lemon Custard-Filled Matcha Turtles #BreadBakers

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our  Pinterest board  right here. Links are also updated after each event on the  Bread Bakers home page .  We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. This month Stacy of Food Lust People Love  is hosting and she wrote: "Your bread can be large, as in one big animal, or small - animal-shaped rolls. Use your imagination! Points for flavor and shape!" If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to Stacy at Here's the animal-shaped bread basket from the #BreadBakers... Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum Pandas from Karen's Kitchen Stories Bird Bread Rolls from Ambrosia Easter Bunny Buns from Cook with Renu Ham and Cheese Elephant Rolls from Food Lust People Love Hedgehog Bread from Making Mir

Connecticut Lobster Rolls, Canned Lobster Bisque, and a 2019 Henry Fessy 'Maître Bonhome' Viré-Clessé #Winophiles

This month the French Winophiles group is looking at affordable wines from Burgundy.  Host Cindy of Grape Experiences wrote: "Burgundy, or Bourgogne, is known for its wines of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir... as well as Aligote, Gamay, Sauvignon, César, Pinot Beurot, Sacy, Melon in lesser quantities. Many of the well-known wines are quite expensive, but there are plenty of values to be found." Read her invitation here. And there won't be a Twitter chat for this event, so you will have to dive into the articles themselves to read about our pairings and findings. Here's the line-up... Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on the Farm enjoys Domaine Chevillon Chezeaux Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits, 2018 Paired with a Maple Pecan Chicken . Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares her love of Connecticut Lobster Rolls, Canned Lobster Bisque, and a 2019 Henry Fessy 'Maître Bonhome' Viré-Clessé. Jeff Burrows of FoodWineClick! explains why we should Look t