2garlic clovespeeled and smashed with blade of a knife
1cupyellow or white onionfinely chopped
3poundsripe tomatoespeeled *see note
Freshly ground black pepper
Handful fresh basil leavestorn 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.
To peel tomatoes: Fill a 4 or 5 quart pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Drop in the tomatoes and cook one or two minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Use a small sharp knife to slit the skins on the bottom of tomatoes, then slip off the skins. Roughly chop and transfer to a bowl, along with any juice they exude.Storing leftovers: The soup is best served fresh within 3 days. Keep refrigerated and warm gently in a saucepan to reheat.