Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup (Pappa al pomodoro)
This is a great soup that is easy to prepare and makes use of leftovers, in particular stale bread.
It’s also light because unlike typical tomato soups it doesn’t make use of heavy cream. It also has a good, simple base, which can be easily change: I see myself adding chicken or even cooked pasta.
I suspect that the recipe would be even tastier if I had used fresh tomatoes, particular very ripe ones when they’re in season. For that reason, this recipe is definitely a remake when the farmers market around the corner has ripe tomatoes.
Another great Joy of Cooking recipe (although this Simple Recipes version is great too), makes about 4 cups, with little hands-on time (maybe about 10 minutes) and about 20 minutes given the bread and the soup can be cooked in parallel.
From the days when bread was the heart and soul of the kitchen—and not a scrap was wasted—comes this favorite of Tuscany’s country soups. Make it with fresh tomatoes in high summer and eat it at room temperature, or prepare it with canned tomatoes in winter and serve hot. To stay true to the goodness of the soup, use a bread made without sugar.
- a few slices of country bread (any bread works, to be honest);
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil;
- 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped;
- 1 clove garlic halved (pick a big one, it makes it easier to rub the bread);
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled;
- 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves;
- 1 1/2 lbs of ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coursely chopped, or
one 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained;
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
For garnish (per serving)
- 4 fresh basil leaves, torn;
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil;
- Parmesan cheese shavings.
Preheat the oven to 200F.
Dry in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes: 2 or 3 thick slices country bread.
Alternatively, use stale bread.
Heat in a soup pot, over medium heat:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Add and cook, stirring, until beginning to color, about 10 minutes:
- 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Meanwhile, rub the bread on both sides with:
- 1 clove garlic, halved
Coarsely chop together:
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/3 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the garlic mixture,
and cook until the garlic barely colors,
2 to 3 minutes.
- 11/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, or one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until thick and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (broth works just as well)
Boil for 2 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Break up the bread in the bottom of soup bowls.
Ladle in the hot soup and top each serving with:
- 4 fresh basil leaves, torn
- Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese shavings
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: You can use an immersion blender to purée the soup - I personally liked the chucks of tomatoes in the liquid.