Everybody loves French onion soup, and with good reason. Caramelized onions swimming in a rich beef broth flavored with a splash of red wine or brandy and topped with broiled Gruyere cheese? Every warm, gooey mouthful lights up your taste buds like a pinball machine. It’s exactly what you want on a cool winter’s night.
But it is not light. In my quest to slim down this French classic I turned to Italy. I caramelized the onions in olive oil, rather than butter, swapped out the Gruyere in favor of Parmigiano-Reggiano (less fat and bigger flavor, so you can use less of it), and moved the croutons and cheese off the top to make room for a poached egg. Finally, I added pancetta for flavor, because we have to have at least a little fun.
I took much of my inspiration for this recipe from Cesare Casella, a brilliant Tuscan chef who used to hold court at a restaurant near my home in New York. I thought Casella’s soup really improved the French original. I especially like the addition of the egg. The yolk makes up for at least some of the richness lost when the Gruyere goes bye-bye.