Pappa Al Pomodoro: Tomato and Bread Soup

A classic dish of poor Italian housewives, served on days when the only food in the house is tomatoes and stale bread. Do NOT use fresh or pre-packaged sliced bread; it will go horribly slimy. Instead, use a stale, firm, country bread like ciabatta, sourdough, etc. If you must use fresh bread, stick it into the oven for a while to make it hard.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with ½ teaspoon salt
2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb. of stale white bread, crusts removed, broken into pieces
1 1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
10 -12 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional garnishes:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Basil leaves
  • Parmesan shavings

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the garlic gently without letting it brown, then add the tomatoes, basil and bread (tear the basil leaves with your fingers, NEVER chop basil with a knife or scissors it changes the flavor).

Add the stock, little by little, stirring and mashing the bread down until the mixture begins to resemble a porridge, pour in any remaining stock. Taste and season. Garnish with a swirl of olive oil, extra torn basil, and some shavings of Parmesan.

This can be served hot, warm or cold but I think it is at its best at room temperature on a hot day. It can be made a day ahead and reheats beautifully, but doesn’t freeze well.

BTW the word “pappa” in the name of the soup doesn’t have anything to do with dad, daddy, father – it means pap/puree/mush.


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