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I started making Pappa al Pomodoro not long after a trip to Italy. Even though we were there in the autumn, I've never had sweeter tomatoes. In Tuscany, this soup was on almost every restaurant menu and we never had a bowl of it that wasn't memorably delicious. After our trip, I was delighted to discover how easy it is to make at home.
This thick, porridge-like Tuscan bread soup transforms tomatoes, broth, and bread into something wonderful. One of the most versatile and forgiving soups I know, it's delectable at any temperature: hot, room temperature or cold.
Ingredients You Need to Make Pappa al Pomodoro
- Crusty Bread: Any crusty bread will do, but be sure to remove the crust so the bread can meld into the other ingredients.
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Broth or Stock: I've called for chicken broth in this recipe, but you can use beef broth instead or a mixture of the two. Vegetable broth will also work.
- Basil: Look for a bunch of perky, deeply green fresh basil.
- Garlic: Look for a firm, tight bulb with plump cloves and shiny, taut skin.
- Onion: Yellow onion or leeks. I love to make this soup with leeks, but they aren't always available.
- Canned Tomatoes or Fresh Ripe Tomatoes: If using canned, look for San Marzano tomatoes either whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes in puree instead of diced tomatoes that resist breaking down. If using fresh tomatoes, you’ll need about 2 pounds (10 to 12), whole, peeled tomatoes, to equal 1 28-ounce can. Here is an easy method for peeling tomatoes.
- Olive Oil: Use a good quality, fruity olive oil to finish this soup.
Though Pappa al Pomodoro is traditionally made with stale bread, I've had good success using fresh bread. Make it with summer's fresh, ripe tomatoes or canned tomatoes any time of year. You have broth options too - chicken, beef, or a blend of the two, or vegetable broth for a vegan version. Choose what suits your mood or what you happen to have on hand. Before serving, finish with a generous drizzle of good olive oil to round everything out.
- If you prefer a spicy soup, add red pepper flakes to taste along with the garlic and onion in step 1 of the recipe.
- Though this soup is typically served without cheese, sprinkle with grated parmesan if you like.
- Breaking from tradition, I've made this soup with fresh rosemary with great results. Just don't let dried basil tempt you (or dried rosemary for that matter), or your soup may be bland.
Did you know...?
Pappa al Pomodoro means "Tomato Mush" in Italian - ha!
Though Pappa al Pomodoro has ancient origins, the 1912 book, Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca and a 1964 television adaptation of the book popularized it. The Radiotelevisione Italiana TV series starred Italian singer Rita Pavone who sang, "Viva la pappa col pomodoro".
More Classic Italian Soup Recipes
How to Make Pappa al Pomodoro
Step 1: In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook garlic and onion in olive oil until softened. Add stock and tomatoes; stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
Step 2: Turn heat off and add bread and fresh basil; stir to fully saturate bread. Season with salt and pepper; let stand 20 minutes.
Step 3: Vigorously stir the soup to a porridge-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil and more fresh basil, if desired.
Pappa al Pomodoro
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 2 medium garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion or 2 medium leeks, finely chopped
- 2 cups chicken stock beef stock, or vegetable stock
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice (recipe note #1)
- 6 ounces rustic bread day-old or fresh, crust removed and torn into 1-inch pieces
- large handful fresh basil leaves torn small, plus more for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and onion; cook and stir until softened, about 5 minutes (add a pinch of salt if you like to help sweat the onions). Stir in stock and tomatoes; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off heat and stir in torn bread and basil leaves, pressing bread into liquid with a spoon to fully saturate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand 20 minutes.
- Stir or whisk soup vigorously until it has a porridge-like consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Ladle into 4 soup bowls and drizzle generously with olive oil. Garnish with fresh basil if desired and serve.
- You can also use whole canned tomatoes that you crush into the soup. Fresh ripe tomatoes are an excellent option too, but you'll want to peel them. Here is a simple way to do so.
- Serve this soup hot, at room temperature, or cold, straight from the refrigerator. Just don't forget to drizzle with olive oil before serving!