Sopa coada

Sopa coada

Pigeon soup

Modern Italian Food
Earl Carter

A grand occasion dish, and a classic regional dish from my city, Treviso, near Venice. It is not elaborate, but it will take time and it requires the confidence of the more experienced cook. Sopa coada translates into something like ‘slow-cooked’, a bit like the way that birds incubate their eggs. Originally it was cooked very, very slowly in an earthenware dish in the oven. My version is a little more user-friendly.


Quantity Ingredient
6-8 pigeons
40ml olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
a few leaves sage and rosemary
1 bay leaf
250ml red wine
2 litres * golden chicken stock [rid:9937]
10 slices day-old bread from a rustic-style loaf
200g parmesan, grated
good quality extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Wash the pigeons and pat dry. Heat half the olive oil in a large, heavy-based casserole pan and sauté half the vegetables with the garlic and herbs until they soften and colour lightly. Add the pigeons and brown them all over. Add the red wine and simmer on a medium heat until it is reduced almost to nothing. Gradually add 1 litre of the chicken stock, so as not to reduce the temperature too much. Cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly askew, and simmer gently for around an hour, until the pigeon is tender and the meat can be easily removed from the bones and shredded. Keep the meat to one side and reserve the bones for the stock.
  2. Return the pan to the heat and simmer until the sauce reduces further. Pour through a fine sieve and refrigerate. Skim off any fat on the surface. Mix the sauce with the reserved pigeon meat. This may all be done ahead of time.
  3. To make the stock, heat the remaining olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and sauté the remaining vegetables and the reserved pigeon bones until they are lightly browned. Add the remaining stock and simmer for at least an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 120°C. Line a baking dish with some of the bread and top with some of the pigeon meat in its sauce. It should be a snug fit.
  5. Sprinkle generously with cheese and pour on enough of the stock to make the bread quite soggy. Add another layer of bread, meat and cheese and soak with more of the stock. Finish with a sprinkling of cheese. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for an hour.
  6. Remove the foil and return the dish to the oven to brown the top. Be very careful not to let it dry out; add a little more stock if necessary. Serve in hot bowls with a good drizzle of your best olive oil.
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