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This recipe for rustic, homemade Tuscan tomato soup (pappa al pomodoro) is incredibly simple, calling for just a handful of basic ingredients: fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and crusty bread. It’s a classic Italian tomato-basil soup thickened with bread, rather than milk, cream or Parmesan.
Fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil come together in this rustic, comforting homemade tomato basil soup, made thick and creamy with pureed breadcrumbs. Learn how to make rustic and delicious Pappa al Pomodoro with this basic recipe.
Tuscan tomato and bread soup recipe is all about capturing the essence of ripe fresh tomatoes — then getting the heck out of the way! This is a soup recipe that really defines “cozy cooking,” along with other favorites like homemade chicken noodle soup and creamy roasted tomato soup with fresh tomatoes.
What is pappa al pomodoro?
Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. Pappa al pomodoro originates from Tuscany. It’s a simple tomato soup thickened with bread. The traditional Italian peasant dish uses just a few ingredients that stretch out to make a hearty meal. Basically, think of it as a type of thick, savory porridge.
I was lucky to eat the most delicious pappa al pomodoro on a late summer day in Italy. I was visiting a winery in Tuscany and the vintner’s wife made the soup for lunch with freshly picked tomatoes still warm from the sun.
One taste of that dish captivated me, and I still dream about it! The soup is rich and tasty with not much more than tomatoes, olive oil and seasoning.
About the ingredients
- Tomatoes: Italian food expert Nancy Harmon Jenkins stresses the importance of using “red, utterly ripe fresh tomatoes” when making authentic Tuscan tomato soup. That would mean getting your hands on great tomatoes, usually found in farmer’s markets or your own garden. Realistically, that’s not always possible. Grocery store vine tomatoes will work too (they’re what I use) as well as canned whole tomatoes.
- Stale bread: Authentic Tuscan bread is a type of rustic bread that doesn’t contain salt. A day-old Italian-style loaf such as ciabatta or a baguette are good substitutes. Feel free to trim the crusts if they are too hard.
- Garlic: Use two fat cloves.
- Olive oil: Choose a high-quality extra-virgin for the best flavor.
- Onion: Yellow or white onion.
- Fresh basil
- Salt, pepper and sugar: Add more or less sugar to taste, depending on how ripe your tomatoes are.
- Water: Traditional pappa al pomodoro is made with water, but you can use vegetable broth if you like. I think chicken stock overwhelms the pure taste of the tomatoes.
- Make the bread puree in a blender or food processor:
- If you’re not using canned tomatoes, peel and chop the fresh tomatoes.
- If you’d rather not haul out your blender or don’t have one, you can combine the bread cubes, water, olive oil, garlic and salt in a large bowl and let sit for 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the bread is soft. Mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher — it doesn’t need to be absolutely smooth.
- Peeling the tomatoes is mostly for looks and texture. Go ahead and skip the blanching step and peeling if you enjoy the texture of the whole tomato.
Storing and reheating
- The soup is best served fresh within 3 days. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
- To reheat, warm gently in a saucepan. Add a small amount of additional water if the soup has thickened.
Tuscan Tomato Basil Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)
- 4 cups cubed crusty bread
- ⅔ cup (160 ml) water
- 6 tablespoons (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with blade of a knife
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup yellow or white onion, finely chopped
- 3 pounds (1.35 kg) fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups) *see note below for how to peel, or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful fresh basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped
- Put 2 cups of the bread cubes in a blender or food processor along with the water, ¼ cup olive oil, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend to form a smooth paste.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot and place over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until onion is very soft, but not browned, 8-10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue cooking the tomatoes until they become very soft, about 25 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, mash the tomatoes into a coarse puree.
- Add the bread mixture to the tomatoes and stir. If the soup seems very thick, add a little bit more water to thin it out. The texture should be dense and creamy, but still spoonable. Cook for a few minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Drizzle olive oil over the remaining bread cubes. Put them in a skillet over medium-high heat and toast until golden and crisp, stirring them around, for about 5 minutes.
- Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper. Garnish with the toasted bread, basil leaves an a swirl of olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.