Classic pappa al pomodoro — A recipe for homemade Tuscan tomato soup, using fresh ripe tomatoes, basil and crusty bread. Simple, hearty and delicious.
This is a recipe that’s all about capturing the essence of ripe tomatoes — then getting the heck out of the way.
What is Pappa al Pomodoro
Tuscan tomato soup with bread, pappa al pomodoro, is a traditional Italian peasant dish.
Bread soup uses just a few ingredients that go a long way. Basically, think of it as a type of thick, savory porridge.
I once ate 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.
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.
It’s one of my favorite Italian dishes, showing that even the most simply prepared food can often be the most satisfying and memorable.
Tomatoes for Pappa al Pomodoro
In her cookbook Flavors of Tuscany Nancy Harmon Jenkins stresses the importance of using “red, utterly ripe tomatoes.”
To make an authentic Tuscan tomato soup the way it’s done on location in Italy, that means getting your hands on great tomatoes, usually found in a farmer’s market or your own garden.
I don’t know about you, but my attempts at tomato gardening have been less than amazing.
The cute, rainbow-colored cherry tomatoes I cultivated on my deck one summer became snacks for hungry squirrels.
And those fancy heirlooms I went to the trouble of planting in raised beds?
They produced more sprawling foliage than tomatoes!
Every summer when I visit my local markets to buy tomatoes, I’m always amazed that some talented person with green (red) thumbs was able to produce something so good.
There’s that taste of TOMATO that’s hard to describe, with a flavor that has nothing to do with the greenhouse-grown tomatoes we’re used to for the rest of the year.
They are simply sweet, meaty, tart, fruity and savory — all at once.
When you get your hands on tomato beauties like that, it’s best to just enjoy them.
Slice them thick and sprinkle with a little salt, pile them on a plate along with blobs of creamy fresh mozzarella cheese.
When you’ve had your fill, take the next step and make this soup.
Tips for making Tuscan tomato bread soup
- Use a crusty loaf of bread for the base of the soup. If you don’t have leftover bread, slice a loaf into cubes and toast on a baking sheet in a 300-degree oven for about 20 minutes to dry it out.
- If you’d rather not haul out your blender or don’t have one, instead combine bread cubes, water, olive oil, garlic and salt in a large bowl and let sit for 30 minutes to absorb the liquid. Mash with a wooden spoon. It doesn’t need to be absolutely smooth.
- Peeling the tomatoes is mostly for looks. Go ahead and skip the blanching step if you enjoy the texture of the whole tomato.
Storing Pappa al Pomodoro
The soup is best served fresh within 3 days. Keep refrigerated and warm gently in a saucepan to reheat.
More easy tomato recipes:
- Bucatini with Sheet Pan Tomato Diavolo Sauce
- Dairy-Free Cream of Tomato Soup
- Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce (20 Minutes)
Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup)
- 4 cups cubed crusty bread
- 2/3 cup water
- 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 ripe tomatoes, peeled *see note
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful fresh basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped
- Put half of the bread cubes in a blender along with the water, 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend to form a smooth paste.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot and place over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until onion is very soft, but not browned.
- Add tomatoes, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a slow simmer. Continue cooking 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 and basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.