At the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Italy, we watched Andrea Gagnesi in his kitchen at Badia al Cotibuono prepare a wonderful traditional Tuscan soup, Pappa al Pomodoro. I’d never heard of Pappa al Pomodoro until then, but it is one commonly prepared in the homes of Tuscan villagers. We each got a small taste of the soup when it was done, and I knew then that I had to try making this soup at home. Well, I have made it twice now and although I love my rendition of the soup, it is not quite as good as the one Andrea Gagnesi made for us that evening. I will continue to tweak the recipe until I have mastered this dish.
The problem with the cooking demo was that Andrea moved quickly and never mentioned exact measurements for the ingredients used. Some of it had to do with his command of English and some it had to do with his master chef skills, tasting the dish as it cooked and making adjustments on the fly. I took loads of photographs at the demo and also watched a Vimeo video that one of the follow bloggers made, but I had to do some guesswork on the exact amounts of all ingredients. Here is my take on how to prepare and cook Pappa al Pomodoro, perfecto for these cold winter months. This recipe serves 6.
Pappa al Pomodoro
- Two baskets of grape tomatoes. – This is what Andrea used, whereas most recipes call for Roma or San Marzano tomatoes.
- Half a loaf of day-old sourdough bread, crust removed – crumbled in the food processor
- ¾ cup red onion chopped fine
- ¾ cup carrot chopped fine
- ¾ cup celery chopped fine
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Two cloves garlic chopped
- 2-4 cups of vegetable broth – I made my own veggie broth
- Fresh Basil leaves – 8 to 10
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Process the grape tomatoes in a food processor to liquefy. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the sauce, and then simmer the sauce in a pot until tomato sauce thickens – 60 minutes.
Add three tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté and caramelize the veggie mix of onions, carrots and celery. Use high heat to cook as quickly as possible. When the “sofrito” is ready, add one or two cups of the tomato mixture and the chopped garlic. Cook until liquid is absorbed and the mixture is very thick – about two minutes.
Add a handful of crumbled bread and mix together until bread absorbs all. Then add the veggie broth and the remaining tomato sauce. Add more bread to thicken and then cook until the soup mixture is thick. Maybe 30 to 45 minutes at a simmer. If you want a thinner soup add more of the broth.
Five minutes before you serve the soup, add the fresh basil leaves. Andrea tore the leaves into small pieces. At the very end, add salt and pepper to taste.
Since the soup is thick with the bread, you don’t need a huge serving unless this is your main course. Serve about a cup to each person. You can also garnish with a few basil leaves.