The first time I ate pappa al pomodoro, tomato and bread soup, I was in Tuscany. A friend who was studying abroad in Florence crumbled stale bread into a pot of crushed tomatoes in a small, Italian kitchen. Meanwhile, some of her neighbors taught me how to cook pasta the authentic Italian way. When we scooped our thick soup into mismatched bowls and I tasted it, I swear I swooned. The beauty of this soup is in its simplicity—bread, tomatoes, water or broth.
Being a little bit lazy, I keep my crusts on. They don’t break down as well as the soup simmers, leaving some bready chunks behind, but I don’t mind the additional texture (and I waste less bread). Keep the pieces small, though, so that you can maximize the amount of bread-turning-to-mush.
The consistency of this soup might surprise you. Even though you start with dried-out bread (perfect use for a leftover loaf!), it absorbs the liquid and starts to dissolve as you cook. The process is simple: cook some garlic and onions, add some tomatoes, throw in some stale bread and broth. Stir and simmer for a while.
Pappa al Pomodoro
2-4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
32-ounce canned or boxed crushed organic tomatoes
½ to 1 loaf day-old rustic Italian bread
3 ½ cups chicken broth, water, or a combination of the two
Salt and pepper
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add olive oil. Chop the onions and garlic finely and add them to the oil. Sauté for a few minutes until they are softened.
If using whole canned tomatoes, chop them but reserve the juice. Crushed tomatoes can be added directly to the Dutch oven. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut or tear bread into 1-inch cubes. Stir bread and broth into tomatoes and return to a simmer, stirring occasionally. The soup will become thick as the bread breaks down, about 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, taste, and serve.