I first posted this recipe for tomato and bread soup (pappa al pomodoro) several years ago, but since publishing it, I’ve learned two things about the soup that inspired its creation:
- The chef used water as opposed to stock.
- The chef used canned San Marzano tomatoes.
Both details surprised me, and while I have never successfully made the soup with canned tomatoes, I now only use water.
If this sounds suspicious or if you can’t help but think stock could only make this soup taste better, let’s review: remember that French onion soup we made last winter? Or that delectable fresh tomato-red pepper pasta sauce we made last summer?
Each of these recipes calls for water exclusively.
Here, slow-roasting the tomatoes, onions, carrots and garlic concentrates all of the flavors, making any liquid but water unnecessary. Furthermore, water doesn’t muddy the pure tomato flavor. As with the onion soup, you need to plan ahead — the onions roast for almost three hours — but the work is mostly hands off.
I know it’s hard this time of year not to eat tomatoes any other way but raw, with a sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, but if you’re lucky enough to have a glut, this one’s for you.
Of course: peasant bread on the side.
Inspired originally by a soup served at Cafe Mimosa in San Clemente.
Notes: Plan ahead: the vegetables roast for three hours. Once they are done, however, the soup comes together in no time. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand — a few leeks, celery, peppers, etc. would all make nice additions.
- 3 lbs (1.36 kg) tomatoes, about, halved if large, left whole if cherry or grape, enough to fill a sheet tray
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped into big chunks (9.5 oz | 256 g once trimmed)
- 1 shallot, peeled and chopped into big chunks (3⅛ oz | 88 g once trimmed)
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated but left peeled, lightly smashed (1.5 oz | 42 g)
- one large carrot, unpeeled, roughly chopped (2 oz | 55 g)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, about
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- fresh cracked pepper
- 4 to 5 oz | 135 g (a couple slices) bakery style bread or peasant bread
- 2 to 3 cups water
- 1 bunch (1 oz | 28 g) fresh basil
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and more bread for serving, optional
- olive oil for drizzling, optional
- Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line a rimmed sheet tray with all of the vegetables. The vegetables should cover the tray in a single layer. (Note: the total weight of vegetables is about 4 lbs or 1.812 kg.) Drizzle olive oil over top. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about three hours, but start checking after 2 hours — sometimes they are done in 2.5 hours. The vegetables should be soft and slightly caramelized.
- Meanwhile, toast the bread. If you haven’t already, slice the bread into ½-inch thick pieces. Place on the counter to dry or toast briefly in the toaster. You can also stick the bread in the oven for about 20 minutes or so while the tomatoes are roasting. You just want to dry out the bread; you’re not trying to brown it.
- When the vegetables are done, place them in a pot with 2½ cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Note: It’s best to bring this soup to a simmer slowly — it spits violently if you heat it too quickly. Also, reheat with the lid on over low heat for the same reason.
- Season with a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper flakes if using. Add the bunch of basil. Break one slice of bread into medium-sized cubes and add to the pot. Using an emersion blender or food processor or traditional blender, puree the soup roughly. Add the other slice of bread if necessary. The soup should be slightly chunky. Taste and add more salt or bread if necessary. Thin with more water until soup reaches desired consistency.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Category: Soup
- Method: Roast, Oven
- Cuisine: Italian, American
Keywords: tomato, bread, soup, roasted, pappa al pomodoro