Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread-based Soup)

When I got married, my wife I honeymooned in Italy, taking a slow, meandering trip through Venice, Florence, Siena, and Rome. Every aspect of that trip was a dream, and the food was no exception. One very friendly restauranteur in Florence insisted that we absolutely had to try his soup before we ordered dinner, telling us it was a traditional, Tuscan tomato and bread soup, called Pappa al Pomodoro.

My wife and I, at a loss for what to try, decided to try his recommendation, and soon enough two intricately decorated bowls were brought before us with a hearty portion of this thick, chunky, most amazing smelling soup. In the blink of an eye, we both emptied our bowls and licked them clean. Needless to say, the restauranteur was smiling ear to ear. We stopped back at the same restaurant for another bowl the next day, and I’ve done my best to recreate it here after some of my usual reading triggered the memories of this great experience.

This is a hearty, full-bodied soup that can work as either a first course or as a meal unto itself. It tastes summery, fresh, sweet, lightly acidic, and is one of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes. If you’re ever in Italy or the presence of someone who can cook real, true, country Italian, don’t pass up on a bowl of this soup. And talk it down to everyone around you so there’s more for you. Its that good! :o

  • olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 leek
  • 1 red bell
  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 1.75 cups chicken stock
  • 2 lb plum tomatoes
  • 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried majoram
  • ~3-4 cups of day old baguette chunks (or some other dense bread–this translates to about 5-8 inches of a loaf)

Before you get started, get all of your produce ready for action. Clean the leek and finely mince the pale green/white parts as well as the shallot, pepper, and garlic. Chop the tomatoes into smallish chunks, doing your best to reserve the juices. Some people insist on skinning and seeding the tomatoes, but to me, this is intentionally a pretty rustic soup, so I don’t regard that as an absolute necessity, but if you do, now’s the time to deal with that.

In a good sized pan (I used a Dutch oven), heat up some olive oil and sweat the shallot, leek, and red pepper for about 8 minutes or so. Do not brown the veggies–just soften them up. Then, throw in the garlic and continue this for another minute or two.

With the base vegetables softened, now is when you should pour in the chicken stock and tomato (chunked, hand-crushed from the can, or both–do what your tomato endowment allows). Stir this about and let it bubble and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring periodically.

While you wait for the first round of simmering to finish, take a trip through your herb garden and gather some basil and oregano. Dice up the leaves, and once time is up, toss them into the pot along with the dried majoram and both salt and pepper to taste. Sample things and tweak the seasoning a bit.

Now, chop up the day old bread (I always seem to have extra baguette lying around–any dense bread like that will do just fine) into big crouton-sized chunks. If you’re bread isn’t day-old hard, just cut up the chunks and toast them briefly (10-20 minutes) in the oven on 250 °F or so to firm them up a bit.

Anyways, with your bread ready to go, arm yourself with a potato masher so that you can gently mash the bread into the soup. Press it all in until every bit of bread is submerged and give things a good stir. Let this simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Check in a bit more often to stir as the soup is more prone to burning on the bottom now what with the bread. Adjust the seasoning to taste when you keep checking in on the soup.

Things should be pretty thick and chunky by now and your house should smell delicious. The soup ought to be done, so give it one last taste in case you need to adjust the seasoning one last time.

Time to dish out a bowl. A bit of high quality extra virgin olive oil drizzled around the edges of the bowl complement the soup quite nicely along with some basil leaves for garnish and a glass of nice Chianti. Enjoy!

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37 Responses to “Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread-based Soup)”

  1. joanne at frutto della passione Says:

    One of my all time favourites. Now I have a craving! The pics are just gorgeous by the by.

  2. clumbsycookie Says:

    You did a great job recreating it! I think it would be aprouved by any Italian! Gorgeous color Mike!

  3. Y Says:

    That looks awesome, Mike! I love this dish too. We’re attempting to grow our own tomatoes again this year. Hopefully there will be enough yield this Summer to make a couple of bowls of this! :)

  4. kittie Says:

    Gorgeous soup – what a great way to use up the end of the summer toms!

  5. Mary Says:

    I’ve heard of tomato bread soup before, but never could wrap my brain around the idea of it. It looks really delicious though. I may have to go buy a baguette so I can let it go stale so I can make this soup! :)

  6. Meeta Says:

    That is one of my favorite regions in Italy. I know it so well. This soup is a wonderful way to reminisce about your honeymoon Mike. i love it!

    BTW. you must go to Liguria the next time you are in Europe. You will love it more than Tuscany! I promise you!

  7. Ivy Says:

    Looks delicious. Pappa makes it, mamma is happy.

  8. Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread-based Soup) (Mike’s Table) Says:

    [...] When I got married, my wife I honeymooned in Italy, taking a slow, meandering trip through Venice, Florence, Siena, and Rome. Every aspect of that trip was a dream, and the food was no exception. One very friendly restauranteur in Florence insisted that we absolutely had to try his soup before we ordered dinner, telling us it was a traditional, Tuscan tomato and bread soup, called Pappa al Pomodoro. My wife and I, at a loss for what to try, decided to try his recommendation, and soon enough two intricately decorated bowls were brought before us with a hearty portion of this thick, chunky, most amazing smelling soup. In the blink of an eye, we both emptied our bowls and licked them clean. Needless to say, the restauranteur was smiling ear to ear. We stopped back at the same restaurant for another bowl the next day, and I’ve done my best to recreate it here after some of my usual Read the rest of this entry »Continua [...]

  9. Judy Says:

    What a great soup Mike! We will be planting our tomatoes within the next month so I can’t wait to try recipes like that once they are fresh!

  10. Jan Says:

    Your pictures are lovely Mike! That soup looks so delish.
    I will bookmark this!

  11. Linda Says:

    That looks awesome. I am an American of Italian descent (all grandparents came over on the boat!) and have never heard of this soup. I will surely make it once our weather cools down. I love a good soup. Thanks. The pictures are great as well.

  12. Sandie Says:

    I’ve been in a soup-kind-of-mood lately (fall has come early in KC), and this looks divine. Your photo of the herbs is exquisite, and as for the honeymoon in Italy—that’s one of the places I want the hubby & I to visit on our next anniversary. *Sigh* A girl can dream, can’t she?

  13. Holler Says:

    That does look very tasty Mike!

  14. Lynn Says:

    Honeymoon in Italy – how wonderful! I like the looks of this soup. It will have to come visit my kitchen soon. My poor man’s version of a trip to Italy.

  15. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    The best pappa al pomodoro I ever tasted was also in Florence, on a rainy day in March some years ago. The soup was simple, nourishing, and so richly tomato — which of course was completely out of season back in Rhode Island at that time of year. What a treat!

  16. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    Oh, wow! You did a great job with this, Mike! The soup looks perfect! It reminds me of wonderful times time I spent in Tuscany. Now, I want to go make some too! ;)

  17. Dee Says:

    We honeymooned in Australia and ate chips I think ;( I love the soup, and I can see this working beautifully for a light weekend lunch. If Dee can’t go to Italy, then Italy will have to come to Dee!

  18. zenchef Says:

    I’m bookmarking this one. This is just perfect and i have tons of perfectly ripe tomatoes from the garden. My kind of food!

  19. grace Says:

    well, whaddya know–i’ve got tomatoes rapidly ripening on my counter and almost an entire loaf of stale bread. ’tis fate. :)

  20. Ning Says:

    We love tomatoes and this looks like a very hearty soup! Thanks for sharing! Will definitely try this some time! :)

  21. Alexa Says:

    It does sound like that trip was a dream… How lovely. The soup looks amazing, so thick and full of flavors. I will have to try it soon. Soups are big in our family, so I am always looking for new recipes. Thanks Mike!

  22. Jude Says:

    Nice step by step. I wonder if they use the unsalted Tuscan bread for this.

  23. noble pig Says:

    I am in love! It’s beautiful, I mean seriously gorgeous with beautiful color and texture. You’ve outdone yourself!

  24. Hélène Says:

    Another great creation. Never went to Italy but that’s of the list. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Susan from Food Blogga Says:

    Since I can’t take a sojourn to Italy, may I please have a bowl of your Tuscan soup, Mike? :)

  26. YeastSpotting September 12, 2008 | Wild Yeast Says:

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  27. Aparna Says:

    Mike, even your non-dessert creations are to die for.:)

  28. Heather Says:

    I’ve heard of this/seen this before – almost the national dish of Tuscany – but I’ve never wanted to eat it. I’m afraid of soggy bread. Is it soggy? I like everything else in it.

  29. Brian Says:

    Clearly something too good to read about when you are hungry

  30. Marie Says:

    A beautiful reminder of my trip to Tuscany! That looks outstanding Mike!

  31. Erik Says:

    If this was not heated, it would really be a lot like a gazpacho…except maybe for the Italian herbs and such. I really must try this. I often forget how good old bread is for thickening soups!

  32. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with White Beans and Sausage from Mike's Table Says:

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  33. Jim in Edmonton Says:

    I had this soup in Tuscany last year and loved it. I have since had it many times at an Italian cafe here in Edmonton.

    But after making this soup, it’s the best. This is a great recipe. All that chopping was worth it. I’ll serve it tomorrow for dinner if there’s any left!

    Cheers

  34. lauren Says:

    was the restaurant calles ZSA ZSA’S?

    I went to the Florence Academy of Art and lived by this restaurant…I didn’t eat there until the day before I left
    and it was the best soup I had ever eaten.

  35. 15 Tomato Soup Recipes Says:

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  36. Homemade Tomato Soup | cookingnewbie Says:

    […] rustic tomato and bread taste that is between a soup and a porridge.   Photo Reference: Mike’s Table   Gazpacho is a traditional Spanish soup. Unlike the above, gazpacho is served cold and […]

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