Recipe of the Week: Tuscan Tomato Soup ‘Pappa al Pomodoro’
The cuisine of Tuscany is world famous for its bold flavors and fresh local ingredients. One of my favorite Tuscan soup is “Pappa al Pomodoro,” a delicious tomato soup made with very simple ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and bread. I always make sure I prepare it every time I go home to Italy using fresh San Marzano tomatoes. Their sweet tangy flavor makes it impossible to resist. I have tried several times to make it here in the USA, but finding the right tomatoes can be quite a challenge if not an impossibility. Most of our supermarket tomatoes are lacking both in flavor and texture and frankly their quality is just not worth the money we pay for them. What can we do to solve our tomato dilemma? One solution can be growing them ourselves in our own garden, but that requires time and lots of hard work. Another solution can be lots of fun for the whole family, go and pick tomatoes yourself at one of the local farms, but that too takes time. Another alternative is to take a chance and buy them at the local farmers market. But choosing the very best requires time too. People always seem to look at me funny when I pick tomatoes up to feel their weight and smell them before buying them. Here is the perfect solution: if you do not have the time or the patience to find the best tomatoes, “roasting” is a great cooking method for bringing out the flavor of even the most stubborn tomato. Oven roasting is a great way to intensify the flavor of any vegetables and to bring out their natural sugars. I usually preheat the oven at 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil. After I cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds, I place the tomatoes on top of the prepared pan with garlic cloves. Then I drizzle all with olive oil and salt. I usually roast them for 30 minutes depending on their sizes and then save them in the refrigerator in a container until I’m ready to use them in a recipe. Serves eight.
12 ripe tomatoes
12 garlic cloves with their skin on
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh basil
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Halve tomatoes lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Toss prepared tomatoes and garlic cloves with olive oil. Arrange prepared vegetables on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft on all sides. Remove and set aside. Remove the tomato and tomato skins once cool.
Process tomatoes and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Add tomato sauce, paste and hot sauce. Add chicken stock and blend until smooth.
Place tomato soup in a stock pot and heat. Adjust seasoning and add fresh basil. Serve soup in individual bowls topped with mozzarella crostini.
1 French baguette, sliced thin on a bias
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Brush crostini with olive oil on both sides. Toast in a 350F oven for 10 minutes, or grill on a warm grill for about one minute per side. Top with mozzarella cheese.
Just before serving, heat the crostini until the cheese has just begun to melt. Ladle hot soup into warm bowls and float a crostino on each one and serve at once.