Alpine Bread Soup

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If you are looking for a delicious, hearty answer to the question of what to do with stale bread, you could do a whole lot worse than make a batch of bread soup: It’s quick, easy and only uses a few ingredients.

A bowl of Alpine Italian bread soup.

Bread soup comes in many forms — really wherever you have bread, you have bread soup, from Mexico and Argentina, to Europe, to the US and Canada. And while the most famous is ribollita, a tomato-based Italian soup, this rendition hails from the alpine region between Italy and Austria.

I am indebted to the wonderful book Fruili Food & Wine for the inspiration for this recipe, although it also takes cues from Austrian and the various German bread soups.

Using only stale rye bread — you can of course use any bread you want, although hearty country loaves will be better — onions, garlic, some stock, a bit of cheese and crispy rendered cured pork, you create something of a hybrid between a soup and porridge that looks, well, OK, but tastes amazing.

I have been baking a lot of rye bread lately, and since I am solo, sometimes I don’t get through a whole loaf before it goes stale. So I’ve been trying to find ideas for what to do with stale bread, and it seems there are whole subcultures dedicated to this. Breadcrumbs, croutons, etc., and I love a good panzanella.

In the Alps, stale bread is used in their signature dumplings, called canederli, which are amazing. Bread soup is a natural extension of this, as they share many similar ingredients and flavors.

Making Bread Soup

Making a pot of bread soup couldn’t be easier. Cook some cured pork — bacon, guanciale, pancetta, etc. — remove the meat for later, then cook onions and garlic and the bread cubes in the fat, add stock, simmer until the bread starts to break down, add melty cheese, top with parsley, the crispy pork and some pepper.

Easy peasy. Really the only trick is to know when to serve: You want to cook the bread cubes until they start to break down, but not cook them into mush. That’s going to be different depending on what sort of bread you use.

For the homemade rye I used, it required about 20 minutes. A softer bread could get to this half-broken-down state in 10 minutes. Just keep an eye on things.

Close up of a bowl of bread soup.

Serving and Storing

Alas, bread soup is not very good as leftovers: It thickens to a paste. So serve and eat ASAP.

As for a drink to go with it, I found a crisp lager like Spaten to be ideal, but an acidic, light red like Chianti or a clean white like Pinot Grigio would be good, too.

That said, if you have leftovers, you could use them as a filling for an empanada, or you could whip it with an egg or two, plus some flour, and actually make a decent canederli.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

Close up of a bowl of bread soup.
4.60 from 5 votes

Alpine Bread Soup

This is a great way to use stale bread, rye if you happen to have some. Whatever bread you use, it should be a good, hearty loaf.
Course: Appetizer, lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: German, Italian
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 33 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 pound diced bacon (or guanciale or pancetta)
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups stale bread, cubed
  • 1 quart stock (chicken, beef, vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Black pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat the butter over medium heat and add the diced bacon, pancetta, etc. This seems like a lot of fat, but the bread absorbs it. Cook until the meat is crispy, then remove it with a slotted spoon for later.
  • Add the onion and cook until it turns translucent, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the bread, making sure to coat it all well.
  • Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is about half broken down — you want it to still have a little structure at the center of the cubes.
  • When that happens, drop the heat to low and stir in the cheeses until well combined. Turn off the heat and serve with the parsley and bacon bits and pepper on top.

Notes

You can use bacon, guanciale, pancetta or anything similar here. If you want to reduce the fat, skip the butter. 
If you can’t get gruyere, just use more parmesan, or pecorino. If you can find it, the ideal cheese would be montasio, but it’s tough to find in the United States. 
I use grouse or venison stock, but use what you have handy — just nothing too dark. 

Nutrition

Calories: 678kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 1190mg | Potassium: 464mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 474IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 401mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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2 Comments

  1. This sounds delish! I do a pumpkin bread and cheese soup which is a once or twice a year delight. How would you reduce the sodium? I marked a 3 because I haven’t made it yet.