I'm not a big believer in detox diets, but with a particularly festive holiday season behind me, my stomach needs a break from rich food and booze. For some reason, I hosted an unusually large number of holiday dinners this year and while I usually do a pretty good job at planning portions, one thing that's inevitably left over, is the bread. At one point after a back-to-back spate of dinners, I literally had bags of stale bread sitting in my kitchen.
Loath to waste food, I've been making lots of Pappa al Pomodoro. It's a rustic Tuscan bread porridge that's ridiculously simple to make and yet it boasts a marvelously comforting array of gentle flavors and textures that's a welcome salve for my pickled innards.
Like any simple dish, the quality of the ingredients will make or break Pappa al Pomodoro. Specifically, you'll want to use the best bread, vegetable stock and tomato juice you can get your hands on. For the bread, I recommend a crusty Tuscan-style loaf, but a French country bread (pain de campagne) would work as well. For the vegetable stock, homemade stock is ideal, but frozen veggie stock, or even a natural bouillon without any undesirable additives will work.
Most importantly your tomatoes should be good. In my case, I juiced some vine ripened tomatoes in late summer and kept the juice vacuum sealed in the freezer for when I needed a kiss of summer sun in the dead of winter. Assuming you didn't plan quite so far ahead, a good 100% tomato juice should work and if you can't find one, try getting a can of San Marzano tomatoes (the ones that actually come from San Marzano, Italy, not the brand name) and blending them.
To add a bit more contrast, I've also roasted some yellow cherry tomatoes to use as a topping for my Pappa al Pomodoro, but this is entirely optional.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). Toss the cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil and then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the tomatoes on a small oven safe dish, or sheet of foil and then roast until the skin is blistered and starting to brown about 15-20 minutes.
- Tear the bread into small pieces.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium-heat and saute the onions and garlic until they are fragrant and starting to brown.
- Add the bread and toast until the bread has started to brown.
- Add the vegetable stock and basil and turn down the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid and then let the bread absorb the liquid.
- When the bread is soft, add the tomato juice and then add salt and pepper to taste. Cook just long enough for the flavors to meld together and for the Pappa al Pomodoro to get creamy.
- Garnish the porridge with the roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and a drizzle of good olive oil.