Tomato & bread soup

Tomato & bread soup

Pappa al pomodoro

By
From
Florentine
Serves
4
Photographer
Lauren Bamford

An ingenious way to make a cheap, comforting and filling meal, pappa al pomodoro is probably one of the most ancient dishes that continues to appear on every single Florentine trattoria menu. As with the panzanella, however, the tomatoes weren’t always part of the recipe. This humble dish of medieval origins would have once been a simple porridge of sorts, made with bread, water and garlic, a dish known as pancotto, ‘cooked bread’, which was described by the Florentine painter-chef, Guido Peyron, as ‘the most elemental soup in the world’.

The beauty of a dish like pappa al pomodoro is that it is basically a different dish in each house or trattoria, and is made with a slightly different list of ingredients and a different technique. This demonstrates how much this is an instinctive sort of dish, often made with what’s on hand and followed without a recipe.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
a good pinch salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
60ml white wine, (or water)
700g tomato passata, (puréed tomatoes)
350ml vegetable stock or water
1 small handful basil leaves, torn
350g stale bread, cut into slices

Method

  1. Cook the onion and garlic and salt in the olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking until the liquid has nearly evaporated. Add the tomato passata and vegetable stock and cook over a medium heat, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Season with pepper and, if needed, more salt (especially if using unsalted Tuscan bread in this recipe).
  2. Just before taking the soup off the heat, add the basil and the bread. Remove from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 1 hour. After this time, stir the soup to break up the bread and adjust the consistency, if necessary, by adding more vegetable stock or water – it should be thick like porridge (oatmeal).
  3. Serve at room temperature in summer or hot in the cooler months, always with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.
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