One time last Spring when a group of us were out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Florence, Il Teatro, the owner joked that she was going to take a vat of Pappa al Pomodoro to our school and catapult it through the windows to feed us during class: she had never met Americans that loved the traditional Tuscen bread soup as much as the Richmond University students.
Digging through some old folders I found the recipe for the soup and was overwhelmed with the craving to taste the wonderful flavors of garlic, tomato, and basil the base of the soup, stale Tuscan bread and vegetable broth, absorbs to create a thick, rich, and rustic meal. Or first plate, rather. So I had Lizzie over and we had our first go at recreating one of our favorite dishes. It’s really easy to make, and if you don’t have a vegetable mill like me just use a meat cleaver to mash up the garlic cloves and tomatoes instead! And it’s super inexpensive: we bought all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s for under $16.
- 2 cups stale Tuscan Bread (For bread to be Tuscan it just means that it has zero salt and zero fat. If you can’t find it anywhere just grab a baguette and toast it in the oven for a few minutes to help remove the moisture.)
- 1 1/2 cups of tomatoes
- 10 cloves of garlic (you can mess around with this amount, depending how much you love garlic. But in my opinion, the more the better.)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- a bunch of fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups of vegetable broth
- salt and pepper to taste
Okay so the first thing you want to do is put the broth over low heat for about an hour until it comes to a simmer. Once that’s going slice the bread into thin strips and toast it in the oven until crispy. As that’s warming up put the oil and the garlic cloves into a cooking pot (our cooking instructor, Lella, from Siena says to use a terracotta cooking pot buttt….a normal pot works too). It’s really important to constantly move around the garlic, making sure that the cloves do not burn. I accidentally let a few get a little too brown, but I don’t think it affected the taste all that much. Once they get a little bit of color, though, throw in a few basil leaves and then the bread. Let the bread soak up the olive oil and all the other delicious flavor and then add the tomatoes to the mix. Then the simmering broth. Then the rest of the basil. Then the salt and pepper. Let that simmer for about 30 or 40 minutes. Check on it every now and again, because if it gets too thick you’ll want to add some more broth. Now is the time when you’re supposed to run everything through a vegetable mill, aka beat the soup with a meat cleaver until it’s all mushy and glorious. Serve hot in a dish with a bit of olive oil on top and hooray: it’s Pappa al Pomodoro!!!!! Enjoy! Maybe next time we’ll try Lella’s recipe for Tiramisu, which was definitely in my top 3 tiramisu experiences.