Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pappa al Pomodoro

The fall is in full swing here in southern California: temperatures are dipping all the way down into the 60s. The 60s!
In other words... it is time for soup!

And, I must say, I started the soup season with a bang: this Pappa al Pomodoro from the Oliver is like comfort in a bowl. I literally had to hold myself back from eating all of it in one sitting.

Pappa al Pomodoro is a traditional tomato-bread soup from Tuscany. Instead of using cream to thicken it, you use day-old bread. This results in a lovely, thick consistency, which you want in the fall; but, you don't have to add cream, which is always a plus for everyday/non-fancy occasion soups.

As ever, the Oliver sticks with basic ingredients: tomatoes, basil, garlic, bread, and water, and makes it magical. The key to the magic this time is roasting some cherry tomatoes with basil and garlic beforehand, and then adding them to the soup.
This gives the soup such depth and really intensifies the tomato-basil flavor.

So, start by pricking some cherry tomatoes.
Then toss them with some basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Roast them until the skins start popping, about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, get some more garlic sauteing in your Dutch oven, with the basil stems, and some olive oil. Who knew you could use basil stems?
Add in a can of whole plum tomatoes.
Then add some water, and bring that to a simmer.
Now, time for the thickener! I used a loaf of Pain Rustique from Trader Joe's, which I had let sit out for 2 days. Tear it into pieces. And, enjoy it.
Time to add the bread to the soup.
Also add in a bunch of basil. And add some salt and pepper, to taste.
Let that all yum up over low heat for about 10 minutes. And then...

Time for those roasted tomatoes!
Just look at how gorgeous this is. You know it is going to be good.

At this point, you just need to adjust the water level to your taste. You want it to be thick, but still silky. I added about 1/2 cup more. But, really just add a bit and taste, until you are satisfied.
Remove it from the heat. Ladle it into your bowl and add some Parmesan cheese and some fresh basil.

Don't you just adore the fall?

Pappa al Pomodoro (from Jamie's Italy)
1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stems finely chopped
the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes
about 1 lb or 2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread

Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them on a baking sheet with one sliced clove of garlic and a quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook them in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are bursting out of their skins.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a Dutch oven and add the remaining garlic and basil stems. Stir around and gently fry for a minute, until softened. Add your canned tomatoes, then fill the can with water and add that. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Tear the bread up into thumb-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Mix well and season to taste. Tear in the basil leaves and let the soup sit on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes, basil, garlic, and juices into the pan.

Give the soup a good stir. You're looking to achieve a thick, silky, porridgy texture, so feel free to adjust it with a little water. Then remove it from the heat and add 6 or 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Divide between bowls and served with a little extra basil.

Serves 4

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