For about three days last week the weather was beautiful: cool, crisp and sunny with bright blue skies and all the signs that spring was finally here.
And then it got cold again. So even though it’s technically spring, since the weather is rainy and chilly, I thought it was a good time to squeeze in one more meal I associate with winter and crappy weather: pappa al pomodoro. A traditional Tuscan dish based on the idea of not letting any food go to waste, pappa al pomodoro is a chunky tomato and bread soup. Thick and pleasantly filling (without being too heavy), it’s the perfect thing to eat on nasty days when you just want to feel cozy and warm.
Flaneur had never actually made it before but when I looked up a few recipes they all seemed easy enough.
First things first, we gathered the ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, stale loaf of bread (In Italy this would’ve been the traditional unsalted, Tuscan table bread. We tried to get something close, and then let it get hard as a rock.), vegetable broth, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Next, we poured some olive oil into a pot, threw a few garlic cloves in (whole, not diced) and let them simmer and brown a little. Once they started to look golden, we threw in the tomatoes (diced into fat chunks), basil and a good amount of pepper (for a little kick) and let it all stew for about 10 minutes.
After everything seemed to mix together into a soupy consistency, we poured in the vegetable broth and let it come to a boil, then let it cook for another five minutes.
Next we threw in the chopped stale bread and let it cook for another five or ten minutes. Our bread was really hard on the outside but still a bit soft and spongy on the inside, so it soaked up a lot of the liquid, but a bit of water thrown in got it back to a good consistency.
Finally, we added a little bit of salt, poured it into bowls and garnished with fresh basil and there you have it: a delicious, heart-and-belly warming meal to hold you over till better weather!
UPDATE: After much discussion with my in-house Italian, I wanted to clarify that pappa al pomodoro is not specifically a “winter” dish. Italians eat this any time of year and one thing I read even said it was a quintessential summer food. This is strictly my opinion, but I can’t imagine eating something like this in say August, when it’s 95 degrees outside and you don’t have air conditioning (which none of the Italian apartments I lived in had). Flaneur says you can eat it cold but I think part of what makes this dish great is eating it hot, and having that fuzzy feeling of being warmed from the inside out.
I crave ribollita like I crave a little bit of the captain