For a tomato soup to succeed it needs something to ease the palate, because a soup made of tomatoes all on their own would be too acidic to enjoy. Often the solution is to adding milk or cream to mitigate the harshness and soften the tomato flavor. But the thrifty Tuscans had their own solution, which also made use of stale bread: Pappa al Pomodoro. The bread, which is stirred into the soup only toward the end, becomes soft and custardy amid the bright tomatoes and balances the soup. The rest of the flavors are classic Tuscan. Basil? Check. Garlic? Check.
Perhaps my only complaint was that the soup is ideal for people with no teeth, and that it gets a little boring to eat. But that didn't stop me from happily slurping two bowls of the stuff: It's a meal you can eat yourself silly on and still feel light and healthy afterward. Though there are many recipes online, I was drawn to this one from jamieoliver.com, which makes use of a combination of canned plum and roasted fresh cherry tomatoes.
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 28 ounces canned tomatoes
- 2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread, torn into chunks
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prick the cherry tomatoes and combine them in a mixing bowl with one sliced clove of garlic, a good drizzle of olive oil, and 5 or 5 basil leaves. Spread them on a roasting tray and roast for about 20 minutes, until collapsed and slightly shrunken.
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the basil stalks and the remaining garlic, cooking until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, and an additional half can full of water. Use a wooden spoon or kitchen scissors to break up the tomatoes, while bringing to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the torn-up bread pieces to the pan, along with the rest of the basil, torn. (Reserve a few basil leaves for garnish). When the roasted tomatoes are done, scrape them into the soup pot with all their juices and stickiness. Stir into the soup and check for consistency: it will be rather thick and porridgy.
Divide between bowls and float some additional olive oil on top. Top with more basil and serve.