If you have ever dipped a piece of bread in a pot of spaghetti sauce, this recipe is for you. It is apparently the typical after school snack of children in Tuscany, and let me tell you, it beats milk and cookies by a mile. I have run across similar recipes, and have always been intrigued, but until now, have never made it. It almost seemed too delicious to have for supper, a guilty pleasure for an adult in the same way that having pancakes for dinner might be for a child. With the right tomatoes, it is a bright taste of summer in the middle of this drab winter, and it is exactly what we needed last week. I used tomatoes that I had canned last summer, and they were perfect. You could wait until summer to try pappa al pomodoro, or you could spend a few dollars extra and buy some San Marzano tomatoes, which I think would be almost as good as really good home-canned ones. Add some fresh basil and some fresh ground pecorino romano, and it really is seriously awesome.
Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato Bread Soup)
Adapted from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux
1 medium loaf day old rustic Italian bread, crust removed and cut into cubes
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, or canned plum tomatoes
5 large garlic cloves, sliced very thin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh torn basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil for garnish
Put the tomatoes through a foodmill or in a blender to create a chunky puree. In a large saucepan, saute the garlic slices in the olive oil for a few minutes. When it is just about to turn golden, place the bread in the pot, and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the chicken stock over the bread cubes. Stir to coat the bread in the garlic and oil. Add the pureed tomatoes, a large pinch of salt, and another cup of chicken stock. Stir every five minutes or so as the soup comes to a simmer, After 30 minutes, taste the pappa, add salt if necessary, and add more chicken stock if the consistency is not right. It should be a mush; not too liquidy. When ready to serve, add the basil, and serve in small bowls, sprinkled with pecorino romano cheese and drizzled with olive oil.