Some days no amount of meal planning will stop it from being a soup day. Some days you don’t have a plan, but you know you have some veggies and stock. There was no arguing with the fact that today was a soup day and the Soup of the Day is Pappa al Pomodoro.
When I ran off to California at the age of 19 I took very few things with me. My backpack contained some clothes, I had strapped my mom’s wok to the back of it like a turtle shell, I sensibly took a tent, and I had two books, one tiny and one very large, but both meaningful. The tiny book was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and the very large book was a copy of The Joy Of Cooking, dog eared with missing pages, that I had bought at a thrift store. My mother’s copy of the book contains the notations of a 9 year old future cook who read the book cover to cover like a novel. I subsequently lost the thrift store copy, it never got used much anyway, but when I went back to school my mom know just what to send me at my new house. Nothing else would do but the newly minted “updated” edition of the Joy Of Cooking released in 1997. Sure, it lacks my favorite ever eggplant fritter recipe, but otherwise it is a perfectly wonderful edition.
In this copy my journey through vegetarianism is chronicled and it was in this edition that I discovered Pappa al Pomodoro. After making it once I declared it my new favorite comfort food and eating it today I think I know why. It is remarkably similar to a favorite food of my youth “biscuits and maters” which I’ll have to cover another day. Annoyingly it was listed under tomato something or other in the index, but I quickly remedied that.
By now I’ve committed the recipe to memory, though with a more varied diet I hadn’t made it in years (so long that I had never fed it to that guy I like). It is still one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Somehow it manages to be creamy, tart, chunky, and silky all in the same bite. Here’s a recipe from Serious Eats that is every bit as good as the Joy of Cooking version. Give it a try the next time you are in need of soup.
Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 medium onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juices
- 2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for serving
- 1/3 pound (about 6 ounces) fresh or stale rustic bread, torn or cut into 1-inch chunks (see note above)
- 2 cups warm stock (I used turkey stock), plus more as needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic just begins to turn golden. Add onion and cook, stirring, just until softened, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and their juices, along with basil sprigs, and bring to a simmer.
2. Stir in bread. Ladle stock on top, stirring to combine. Simmer bread, adding more stock as needed, until bread is completely softened and custardy and soup has thickened to a porridge-like consistency, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard basil sprigs.
3. Spoon into bowls, generously drizzle with olive oil, and grind black pepper on top. Garnish with torn basil leaves and serve.