Pappa al pomodoro, a Tuscan tomatoes and bread soup

Pappa pomodoro

The first time I visited Florence I was a young tourist; those three days of many years ago I remember  a very cold weather and my inappropriate coat, the stunning city view from the Piazzale Michelangelo, the silent atmosphere early mornings – well my Hotel was located in the old city centre, closed to the car traffic – the privilege of seeing Botticelli “Allegory of Spring” alone, sitting on a sofa, inside a  not crowded Uffizi Gallery.

Pappa al pomodoro, a Tuscan tomatoes and bread soup

Talking about food, I remember a couple of terrible pizza, some warm and crispy “crostini” spread with a mix of sausages and stracchino cheese and a comforting bread and tomato soup… it was the delicious “pappa al pomodoro”

Coming back home I tried to cook both dishes. No way. The Sicilian sausages are knife chopped so it was impossible to mix them with cheese to have a smooth consistency.

Even my recipe testing with the “pappa al pomodoro” was disappointing ; the Sicilian bread is made with semolina flour and it’s elastic, absolutely non crunchy when stale… this  made my soup sticky like glue.

Life is incredible, I could never have imagined that in a few years I would find myself, in my Florentine kitchen,  making this dish … and a few years later teaching to other people how to prepare it.

Pappa pomodoro

What does pappa mean? Pappa is a familiar word to indicate a creamy food, easy to eat with a spoon, without chewing, so this word used when we talk about baby food. Baby kids eat pappa.

Siena and Florence compete about the paternity of this dish; as you can imagine there are several version, each family prepare the soup in different ways: some recipes start with garlic, other with onions or leek, someone cooks the tomatoes together with the chopped bread, others soak the bread in warm vegetable broth whipping the soup until creamy.

So this is my version, red and creamy, absolutely loved by my family and my friends.

2 yellow onion – 1 celery stalk – 1 carrot –  600 g. ripe tomatoes – 1 garlic cloves – 6 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil – 1 pinch salt – 300 g. Tuscan stale bread – fresh basil – fresh grounded pepper – tuscan extra-virgin olive oil to serve

Prepare the broth: peel one onion and the carrot, clean the celery stalk. Wash the vegetables, put them in a pot and cover with one litre of water. Bring to the boil, add a little pinch of salt and let the broth simmering for 20 minutes.

During this time prepare the tomato sauce: in a pan heat the garlic 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. When the garlic will be golden add the tomatoes roughly chopped. Add one pinch of salt, cover with a lid a cook a medium flame for about ten minutes or until soft – timing depends of the tomatoes ripeness.

Let it lightly cool  the pass it through the vegetable meal. Set the tomatoes pureè aside.

In a heavy pot heat the remaining extra-virgin olive oil, add the onion and cook at lower flame until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes pureè, a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook for ten minutes. During this time strain the broth from the vegetables and warm it if necessary. Cut the bread in chunk.

Soak quickly the bread in the warm broth and add it in the tomatoes sauce stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often as the soup tend to stick to the bottom.

Adjust the consistency you desire adding some more broth or whipping to have a creamy soup.

Serves 4