Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup - Pappa al Pomodori

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The late August summers of my Chicago childhood moved in veiled slow-motion. Mirage-like waves rose from the steaming pavement and the incessant drone of cicadas slowed already weary bodies to a dirge like sway. Afternoons were spent under the sprinkler or reading beneath the rank trees-of-heaven that grew untended in the neighborhood. Boredom was a common malady that I escaped by venturing across the street to the Salvino's garden. When the tomatoes came in, the stamp-size plot and the kitchen of the bungalow teemed with activity as Mama S. and her sisters put-by the hundreds of jars that would be used for winter meals. Several of the sisters worked over an old starch stove that had been set up in the yard to contain the mess that came with blanching and skinning bushels of tomatoes. Another crew used the old stove in the basement to sterilize jars for canning, but the jars were filled upstairs in the blast furnace of a kitchen under Mama's watchful eye. The kitchen produced jar after jar of stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, and, when lunch rolled around, everyone got to enjoy a marvelous Tuscan soup called pappa al pomodori. Mama called the soup tomato water. It contained the juice of sieved tomatoes, a handful of fresh basil, some onion and cubes of stale bread that were used to thicken the broth. I suspect that to those who have never sampled it, the soup sounds like prison fare, but, I promise you, that when it is freshly made, it is, unequivocally, delicious. There are scores of recipes for the soup. Jamie Oliver has one that is wonderful, but I prefer to use one that was developed by Mary Ann Esposito and featured on her program Ciao Italia. It's a hands down favorite for me, because of all the recipes I've found, it is the one most like the soup I first tasted as a child. This is a straightforward recipe and I know those of you who try it will enjoy this peasant favorite. It is important to use fully ripe, meaty, blood red tomatoes and good day-old bread when you put this together. This is a wonderful way to use summer's bounty and I hope you will give this soup a try. You can see Mary Ann make the recipe, here. I've included her recipe below. Here's how pappa al pomodori is made.

Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup - Pappa al Pomodori
...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito


2-1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and cut in half
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound leeks, white bulb only, finely diced
12 basil leaves, minced
3 cups hot chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Grinding black pepper
3 cups stale bread cut into 1-inch cubes

1) Puree tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Pour mixture into a fine sieve placed over a large bowl. Strain juice by pressing down with a wooden spoon; discard seeds and skins. Set aside.
2) Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large soup pot, stir in leeks and half the basil and cook until leeks soften. Stir in tomato juice, broth, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Cover pot and remove from hit.
3) Heat remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan. Stir in remaining basil and bread cubes. Brown bread quickly over medium heat. Stir cubes into soup. Cover the pan and allow bread to absorb liquid.
4) When ready to serve, slowly reheat the soup. Pass extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top. Yield: 8 servings.

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Debs @ The Spanish Wok said...

Interesting story and lovely soup. Come join my soup event sometime....

You are welcome to join in my monthly food blogger event THE SOUP KITCHEN, here for entry details and current theme. New theme each month. All bloggers are welcome, hope to see you participate soon.

Ellen Whyte said...

Gazpacho Italian style! yum :-)

Susan Lindquist said...

Gosh! Isn't it just amazing how strong the memories of childhood can be? They pull you right back to the total sensory moment don't they? Great post and a great soup! Love that there was no waste at Mama S's home!

Unknown said...

The first time I had Pappa al Pomdori I was so hesitant because I am not a fan of wet bread... but that was put aside after the first bite. It was delicious!
I love the story of your childhood.. what a great memory! Thanks so much for sharing.

Tricia Buice said...

Incredible story. I was transported to another place and time. It was wonderful. Oh the memories of my Mom canning from sun-up to sun-down. The soup would be my husbands favorite - so I must make it for him soon. Thanks Mary - happy Wednesday!

Unknown said...

What delightful memories you've recalled and shared with us, Mary. I feel like I was there, a little fly on the wall! Yummy sounding soup and I'm sure all the love made her's even better! :)

Cranberry Morning said...

That looks delicious, Mary, and in the perfect soup bowl!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

The Italians definitely have a way of making those simple flavours taste exceptional.

From the Kitchen said...

As if attuned to your memory of Chicago's sultry (and it is sultry at the moment) end of summer days and canning, today's Tribune "Good Eating" section is dedicated to canning.


A Sunflower Life said...

This makes me think of my Mamaw's stewed tomatoes, which were just cooked tomatoes with shreads of white bread thrown in. Your dish sounds like it would taste much better. I'll be on the lookout for Roma tomatoes at this week's farmers market!

sississima said...

delisiuc, bye SILVIA

We Are Not Martha said...

I already love tomato soup, but I think I'd love it even more with bread involved. SO good!!


Dining Alone said...

This sounds delicious, I just wish I had a garden bursting with those blood red tomatoes!

teresa said...

very nice! i love a flavorful soup like this!

Susan..... said...

Mary is in my neck of the woods now. My grandparents got married shortly after arriving at Ellis Island and the immediately planted a garden, which I would tend with my massive grandpa. Sadly they passed when I was way too young to appreciate all the wonderful dishes she cooked from that garden. I know she made this, feeding 10 and the depression made her as thrifty as those sisters from your youth. I have an aging ciabatta on my counter that I need to use, and in this recipe.
Prego, Mary, once again.

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

What a stunning Italian soup my friend :D

Choc Chip Uru

Kim said...

This soup looks perfect for this time of year! I looks soooo tasty!

Blond Duck said...

Looks light enough for this 95 degree weather!

Joanne said...

This is one dish I definitely wNt to make before summer tomatoes are gone!

Rambling Tart said...

What beautiful memories, Mary. :-) I would love to have an outdoor kitchen one day, even if it's just a starch stove. :-) This soup looks beautiful and nourishing.

Salsa Verde said...

Amazing and delicious soup! I love italian food and that soup its up to my taste!!

Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

Thank you, thank you, grazie Mary for posting this delicious recipe that screams fresh from the garden tomatoes plus loads of flavor! Love it so much!
Be well,

France@beyondthepeel said...

THis sounds really lovely. I've never had anything like this but I'm sold on the idea.

Bites from life with the barking lot said...

What a beautiful story and how much richer you life is to remember and share. It's so interesting that the tastes of our childhood become favorites. I have a few things I love to canned peas that are creamed. They must be awful to someone who doesn't have my memories. Once a year I make them, and just swoon. No one in the family will even taste... so the joy is all mine. Happy Holiday!

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