Pappa al pomodoro, literally mush with tomatoes, is a typical peasant Tuscan dish. It is prepared with stale bread, peeled tomatoes, garlic, basil and abundant extra virgin olive oil. It was originally made to use leftover bread; it was always important not to through away anything.
This is a tasty and healthy summer soup to enjoy at room temperature. The ingredients are very simple and typical of Italian cuisine. Tomatoes are rich in lycopenes, a carotene which gives tomatoes their rich red color. Lycopenes are good antioxidants and studies suggest a link between lycopene consumption and prostate and gastrointestinal cancer prevention. Unlike other micronutrients, lycopene becomes more easily absorbed by your body when heated and processed, making cooked, puréed and canned tomato superior sources of lycopenes. As lycopenes are fat-soluble, consumption together with oil improves absorption and also improves the passage between the digestive tract and bloodstream. In the past people ate healthy food without knowing the scientific explaination that we know today!
There are some variations on this recipe. Each family has its own, depending on personal taste, such as adding some onion, leek or carrots and celery. I personally prefer this basic one.
PAPPA AL POMODORO (TUSCAN TOMATO SOUP)
110 (4 oz) Tuscan bread
640 ml (2 2/3 cups) peeled fresh or canned tomatoes, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Vegetable stock or water
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Slice the bread into 6 mm (1/4 inch) slices. Toast it on a grill or under a broiler. Rub with a clove of garlic cut in half
2. In a large nonstick saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the bread slices, turning once
3. Add the tomatoes, sugar and one minced garlic clove. The addition of sugar counteracts the acidity of the tomatoes. Cover completely with stock or water. Mix with a wooden spoon to make the bread to start to come apart, similar to a mush
4. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for about 35 minutes. Then, remove the lid and add salt to taste. Cook over medium heat for additional 5 minutes. The pappa al pomodoro should have a mushy consistency. Remove from the heat and add the basil leaves. Let the soup to allow to cool (about 10-15 minutes). Serve lukewarm or at room temperature, dressed with some olive oil (un filo d’olio) and freshly ground pepper.
Note: You can store in the refrigerator in a close glass container up two days and before eating, you can bring it to room temperature. Like most soups, it is better the day after – Paola