The first recipe for this ancient Tuscan soup was found over 500 years ago in Banchetti, composizione di vivande e apparecchi generale, a cookbook written by Christoforo Messisbugo well before the French Onion Soup as we know it today saw the light of day. Some people think that this recipe is the ancestor of the French Onion Soup, although many French people would deny this.
The combination of onion, almonds and cinnamon was reserved for the rich, princes and royalty in fact, as the ingredients used were very expensive at the time. It was one of Leonardo da Vinci’s favorite soups I read on another blog. Catherine de Medici exported the recipe to France when she married Henry II, along with other herbs and spices.
Carabaccia is derived from the Greek karabos or καραβος, a word that means ship . By extension, it designated the recipient the soup was served in, and then, the soup itself. In Google images, karabos has quite another meaning.
To stay true to this soup, you must have this combination of sweet and salty, but more contemporary versions omit the sugar and cinnamon altogether and replace them with pepper and parmesan or pecorino, either mixed in the soup, or as a topping, quickly crisped under the broiler to get a thin crust overtop. Any which way you make it, it is simply delicious and certainly entertainment worthy.
I ended up pureeing it because I was not a fan of the gritty texture the almonds give this soup, and it ended up being the creamiest, lightest thing ever. Delightful!
Carabaccia di cipole
1 kg yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
200 g blanched almonds
1 cinnamon stick
1.5 L chicken or vegetable broth
1 slice of toasted or grilled bread per person
ground cinnamon and powdered sugar, for garnish
1. Put the onions and the oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat along with a bit of water and a big pinch of salt and cook until the onion is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add more water if needed to prevent the onions from colouring.
2. Put the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and reduce to a fine powder. Add 1 or 2 cups of the broth and purée until smooth.
3. When your onions have cooked for half an hour, add the almond-broth mixture, the rest of the broth and the cinnamon stick and cook, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.
4. Discard the cinnamon stick. Transfer the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine sieve and return to the clean stockpot. Season with salt to taste. To serve, put a slice of warm toasted bread on the bottom of a bowl and pour the hot soup over it. Garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and powdered sugar.