Puccia, a sandwich bread made from a simple pizza dough, forms the base of this soup. The recipe is in “Alpine Cooking” on Page 58, but if you don’t have time to commit to baking bread, you can substitute it with store-bought ciabatta or panini bread and make the croutons from a country-style loaf. If wild chicory proves hard to find, substitute dandelion leaves, escarole or radicchio for the welcome hint of bitterness.
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and pancetta and saute until starting to brown lightly, five to seven minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the bread, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Ladle the soup into a food processor or blender and process on high speed until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Return to the Dutch oven and keep warm over very low heat.
While the soup simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Add the chicory to the boiling water and blanch until wilted, one to two minutes. Lift out of the boiling water, plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking, and drain.
Place a wide saucepan filled with water over high heat. While the water is heating, line a plate with a layer of paper towels.
In a medium frying pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chicory and saute until starting to brown, four to five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
When the water has started boiling, turn the heat to a simmer. Crack one egg into a small bowl, then gently pour it into the hot water, swirling the water around it with a spatula or wooden spoon to encourage the egg to take a nice shape. Repeat with the remaining three eggs. When the water returns to a simmer, set a timer and poach the eggs for two minutes, until the whites have just set. Carefully transfer to the prepared plate.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Gently place one egg in the center of each bowl, then lay some wilted chicory next to it, add some croutons, then sprinkle each bowl with the minced chives and fennel seeds. Add a splash of olive oil to each bowl of soup and serve.
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