Sopa de Ajo (Traditional Spanish Garlic Bread Soup) is one of those dishes—an example of the great cuisine of bread, the kingdom of leftovers, and the audacity to make the best out of what’s in the larder. This utterly delicious, rustic recipe comes to us from Ibán Yarza, as appeared on Johanna Kindvall’s Kokblog blog.
He says, “There is a certain austerity to many traditional Spanish dishes that I find utterly appealing. You can find soups made with bread throughout Spain, from north to south, from Majorca to Andalucía, cold and hot, thick and light, meaty or full of vegetables.
The recipe below is perhaps the best-known version, where only four ingredients (bread, garlic, olive oil, and paprika) are able to convey childhood memories and a bit of daydreaming on a dull winter evening.
Because of the lack of meat, this soup has traditionally been a Lenten dish; in fact, the whole concoction is plain and clear frugality. Rejoice.”
Sopa de Ajo (Traditional Spanish Garlic Bread Soup)
- 5 to 7 ounces (3 to 4 thick slices) of stale, dense, good-quality white bread crusts retained
- 3 to 5 cloves of garlic sliced
- 3 teaspoons paprika (the best you can find—my favorite is smoked bittersweet Pimentón de la Vera)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (again, try to find good oil: dense, deep and fragrant)
- ⅔ cup water or stock
- 4 eggs (optional)
- Traditionally in Spain, you would use a clay pot for this recipe, but any deep pot will do. Fry the garlic in a bit of the olive oil until it turns golden. Remove the garlic from the pan and set it aside so it doesn’t burn and turn bitter.
- Now place the bread in the pan and fry it in the remaining oil (it will soak up part of the oil). Take the pot off the stove, add the paprika, and stir it with the bread and oil, making sure it doesn’t burn; otherwise, it will lose its wonderful fragrance and turn bitter.
- Add the water and garlic, and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. At the very beginning, it will probably not look like the most appetizing of meals, but just be confident—time will bind the soup, and the result will be simply delicious.
- Some people like to have their sopa de ajo really thick and dry (some even finish it in the oven). I prefer to keep mine just on the creamy side of the term “soup,” with thick blobs of creamy bread that melt in your mouth. Once the soup has thickened, and while I set the table, I like to take the pot off the stove and use the remaining heat to poach one egg per person. Once at the table, the yolk will break in each guest’s bowl, taking the sopa de ajo experience to its very limit, so to speak. Sometimes I also sprinkle on a bit of ground cumin. Feel free to add anything you like.