Pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup from Tuscany)

One of the best, easiest summer soups, to be eaten tepid or at room temperature (or even slightly chilled, for me), pappa al pomodoro is a thick tomato and bread soup, strongly associated with the cooking of Tuscany. On a hot day, few other dishes bring more comfort.
In Italian, the word pappa is commonly used to mean “baby food”, something soft and unchallenging and pappa al pomodoro is exactly that, with the major difference of its taste, intensely tomatoey and rich.
It is no more than tomatoes (either canned or fresh), stale bread, water and basil, but the result is much more than its components. By the end, the bread is almost no more discernible and the whole looks like a red-brown mess, with specks of green, the taste is ethereal though, the texture creamy and soothing.
I have seen recipes where a light meat broth is used and I think they miss the point: pappa al pomodoro is supposed to be a light, rather quick, cheap and unassuming dish. A sturdy loaf of  bread of impeccable pedigree makes the difference though: traditional recipes call the bread to be only stale, but I had much better results using bone-dry bits and pieces – they hold up the prolonged cooking without turning into an awful glue.
I much prefer a pappa al pomodoro that is heavy on tomatoes and lighter on bread and for my version I used sweet cherry tomatoes, a touch of garlic, lots of basil. Generally, no Parmesan is served with pappa al pomodoro, but each portion should be generously drizzled with oil.

Pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup from Tuscany)
4-6 portions

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1.5 kg cherry tomatoes, halved
leaves from a  bunch of basil + extra for serving
a pinch of sugar
150 g old bread, cut up in smallish pieces
1.5/2 lt water

Fry the garlic in a glug of olive oil, without letting it getting too coloured.
Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and sugar.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the bread and 1.5 lt of water, you can add more water later on if the soup become to thick.. Bring to simmer and cook for about 1 hour, stirring often and whisking with a whisk, to mash up and disintegrate the bread. Check for salt halfway through and then again at the end.
Let it sit until tepid, add more basil and serve, drizzling each portion with extra virgin olive oil.

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup from Tuscany)

  1. A great summer dish! And you’ve reminded me that I haven’t made one yet this year… time to remedy that right away. I have to admit, I sometimes do use broth rather than water, although I agree it’s gilding the lily. And a bit less tomato as well, although that depends on my mood and how many tomatoes I have on hand…

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    1. I rarely have broth here, mainly because I have been eating meat less and less, mainly out of laziness. Broth would give a fuller flavour, I guess + as usual: personal taste.
      I am rather skimpy on the bread side, I agree: traditionally (in most recipes I have seen), more bread would be used, but I rather like the final, loose texture that I get using more tomatoes

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  2. I am not a ‘soup person’ but prefer it cold if I do prepare . . . have always loved this but only fresh tomatoes attract so have a bit of a wait here in wintry Australia 🙂 ! Your easy recipe will go to the top of the kitchen pile tho’ 🙂 !

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    1. I like it also with quality canned tomatoes (san marzano): actually in Tuscany it is also often made with canned tomatoes (sorry for the late answer, I thought I had replied but the answer sort of disappeared)

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    1. yes… actually there are many bread soups in the whole Italian repertoire, often called “pancotto”, at its simplest just some bread boiled with water, garlic, sage/bay leaf, a little oil.. it sounds horrible, but it can be delicious. Hazan has a more refined version of pancotto in Essentials, I seem to remember

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  3. This is a good reminder that we haven’t made pappa al pomodoro yet this summer! The version we learned in Tuscany uses leeks, which add a nice texture and flavor.

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    1. ciao david, yes leeks are used too. It is very hot here (I guess, “bazzecole” for you) and pappa al pomodoro is ideal.I have also seen a courgette and tomato pappa in one of my tuscan books which sounds good. stef

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      1. Ciao, Stefano, the courgette version sounds really nice, and a good way to use all the summer vegetables in their abundance. I like my new word of the day – bazzecole – but your hot is very humid and probably much worse than my dry desert heat! After a certain point, it is all bad! A presto, dsa

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