This recipe is for yet another famous Tuscan soup whose name, pappa, means puree, while pomodoro of course, refers to tomatoes which are the primary ingredient. The soup is thickened with stale bread, and though this is a rather simple recipe, you can find various versions of it across Tuscany. We recently spent a night in Florence and ordered Pappa Al Pomodoro as our first course, and though very tasty, I knew that my version was better. The trick to creating the best flavor of this basic soup is to use the best quality ingredients. Ideally, this soup should be made late in the harvest season when you can pick ripe, full-flavored tomatoes from the garden. I was lucky enough to be able to select a basket full of ripe tomatoes warm from our garden yesterday to make this soup. You can also make this soup with canned tomatoes, but they have to be top quality crushed tomatoes. I prefer using Pomi or Mutti crushed tomatoes because they taste delicious right from the can. Next, you need dry, coarse Italian bread to use as your thickener. The gummy loaves of bread often sold in grocery stores in America just will not work well. Fresh basil makes the tomatoes sing in this dish so do not even think about using dried basil. Finally, the last integral ingredient is a great tasting, good quality olive oil. We are lucky enough to harvest our own olives so always have delicious tasting olive oil on hand.
This soup is often made in large batches and is always served just slightly warm or at room temperature. The addition of the bread as a thickener creates a soup hearty enough to be the main course, so if you are serving this soup as a starter, keep the portions small. I have tasted many versions of Pappa al Pomodoro, some so thick you have to eat it with a fork. I prefer to keep my soup looser, but you can vary the amount of bread you use to create the perfect texture for you.
Note: As stated above, you can make this soup with both canned or fresh tomatoes. If I am using fresh tomatoes, I cut an X in the stem end, drop the fruit first in boiling water for one minute, then into an ice water bath. I then easily peel and core the tomatoes and squeeze out some of the seeds before coarsely chopping them.
Deborah Mele 2018
Pappa al Pomodoro
A traditional Tuscan soup made with tomatoes and thickened with bread.
- 1 Medium Onion, Finely Chopped
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 6 Cups Prepared Tomatoes (See Notes Above)
- 4 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves (Set Aside Some Pretty Leaves For Garnish), Torn
- 5-6 Cups Stale Italian Bread Cubes, Crust Removed (See Notes Above)
- Salt & Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cracked Black Pepper
- In a large pot saute the onions in the oil over medium heat until they are translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook 20 minutes to thicken the tomatoes.
- Add the broth and mix well, then cook another 10 minutes.
- Add the bread cubes and basil, and then season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Take a whisk and break up the bread to thicken the soup.
- Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
- Serve the soup in individual bowls topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of cracked black pepper.