Pappa al Pomodoro is tomato soup with bread cooked into it, which turns it into a thick porridge. If you like dipping bread into tomato soup, then you'll love this warm, comforting dish.
Although most people translate Pappa al Pomodoro as Bread and Tomato Soup, "Pappa" means mush (as in baby food), and "al Pomodoro" means with tomatoes (like Pasta al Pomodoro). So a more accurate translation might be Tomato Porridge, or Bread and Tomato Porridge if you want to be more descriptive.
The most basic recipes only include olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and bread. For my version, I like to add some red onions and basil for a bit more texture and flavor.
Traditionally this dish is made with Pane Toscano Raffermo, but any crusty bread will work. Honestly, this is a dish that I make when I have stale bread on hand, so I'm not too picky about the bread as long as it has a good crust. Softer bread, like sandwich bread or brioche, tends to get a bit too mushy for my tastes. Crustier bread will still get plenty soft, but they retain a bit of their shape, which gives this a more interesting texture. Most traditional recipes suggest you don't toast the bread to the point of giving it color, but the Maillard reaction gives browned bread more umami and will result in a more flavorful porridge. This is why I toast the bread for a little bit in the olive oil before adding the tomatoes.
Depending on the season, Pappa al Pomodoro can be made with either fresh tomatoes or stewed tomatoes. If you use fresh tomatoes, you will want to use very ripe tomatoes, which will give you the best flavor. You will need to cook them down for a bit to burn off some excess moisture before you add the bread. If you use canned tomatoes, be sure to use good ones as the other ingredients won't contribute enough flavor to make up for bland tomatoes. When using canned tomatoes, I like to add a bit of fresh tomato. This not only adds a little extra acidity, but it also contributes some sweet fruity flavor that only fresh tomatoes have.
As long as the bread you use doesn't contain milk or eggs, Pappa al Pomodoro is plant-based.
Pappa al Pomodoro is a versatile dish that can be served as a soup course, or as a side for things like roasted meat, fish, or vegetables. It also makes for a satisfying meal that you could add some extra protein to by serving it with a poached egg, or some soft tofu.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 10 grams garlic (crushed and chopped)
- 70 grams red onion (sliced)
- 125 grams crusty bread (cubed)
- 180 grams fresh tomato (1 medium tomato, diced)
- 2 cups tomato puree
- 10 grams basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat until hot and add the olive oil, garlic, and red onions. Saute until they're translucent and tender, but not so long that they brown.
- Add the cubed bread and continue to saute until the bread has soaked up all of the oil, and it's gotten nice and crusty around the edges.
- Add the diced tomatoes and puree and add about ⅓ cup of water to the bottle or can and pour this in as well.
- Tear in the basil leaves and mix everything together once before covering the pot with a lid and turning down the heat to low. Allow this to gently simmer for about 10 minutes. If you start heating the porridge sizzle, you may need to add a bit more water to keep it from burning.
- Stir the Pappa al Pomodoro until the bread starts to dissolve and makes the porridge creamy.
- Both bread and tomato puree can contain varying amounts of salt, so taste the porridge and season the porridge to taste. I usually add about ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Serve the Pappa al Pomodoro drizzled with some extra olive oil and some more fresh basil leaves torn on top.