Traditional Tuscan cuisine – “La pappa al pomodoro“
On a wet and grey Florentine Tuesday like today, there’s nothing like a simple Pappa al Pomodoro soup to keep you toasty to the core. Gloriously thick and comforting, this Tuscan bread and tomato soup is a fundamental and cost-effective dish in traditional Tuscan cuisine, enjoyed either warm or cold. The essentials remain as: stale Tuscan bread (it should be dense and crusty, and most importantly, without salt), high quality extra virgin olive oil, and sweet peeled plum tomatoes (jarred or super-ripe from the vine). So, salvage that stale loaf in your pantry and let it soak up that oozing tomatoey mixture.
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 800g of ripe plum tomatoes, peeled
- 200g of stale unsalted bread, crusts removed and torn into small chunks
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup of vegetable stock
- 50ml of extra virgin olive oil
- 15 basil leaves, torn
- 1 tsp of sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic on a low heat until soft and lightly golden.
- Add the peeled tomatoes, cooking them on a low heat for about 20 minutes until broken down into the mixture
- Add half of the basil leaves, vegetable stock, sugar and bread chunks and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Stir vigorously every so often with a whisk to melt the bread and obtain a creamy texture.
- Season well with salt and pepper.
- Set aside for at least an hour to let the flavours immerse. Add the rest of the basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, then serve warm or cold.
- The Florentine version has been known to use battuto, a paste of finely chopped celery, onion, carrot and tomato purée, for a deeper red and smoother texture. This can be added in step 1.
- If using tinned tomatoes, strain them and reserve the tomato juice. This should then be added in step 3 with the vegetable stock. San Marzano tomatoes are a popular choice for this dish.
- In step 3, if the bread still seems ‘poco rossa’, or not very red, add a bit of tomato purée to give it a richer colour and taste.
- For a purer flavour, switch the vegetable stock for lightly salted hot water.
- For a bit of heat, add a pinch of chilli flakes with the onion and garlic.