Giampaolo's Pappa col Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato and Basil Bread Soup)


La pappa is a Tuscan classic, a sort of tomato and bread mush, as much loved by infants as by adults. Deceptively simple to make, the success lies in the quality and consistency of the bread, the freshness and flavor of the tomatoes, and the finest Tuscan olive oil, preferably from the new harvest.

450 g Tuscan unsalted bread, about five days old, cut into thin slices

1 large red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Large handfull of fresh basil, roughly torn

1 1/4 litres of homemade chicken or vegetable broth

600 g fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (if fresh, flavorful tomatoes are not available, better to use finest canned Italian tomatoes)

Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan, and gently saute the chopped garlic, onion, and about half the torn basil leaves. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, then add the broth. Bring to the simmer for a further 10 minutes.

In an earthenware, flameproof pot, add a ladel of the tomato and broth mixture. Then layer with slices of stale Tuscan bread. Dribble with olive oil. Add some more tomatoe and broth mixture, bread, and olive oil, continuing in this manner until the pot is full. When full, add more broth, then leave for about an hour over a very low heat. The tomato and broth mixture will be absorbed by the bread. Add more broth as necessary (it should not be too dry), then mix energetically with a wooden spoon, beating the bread and broth together to form a homogeneous mixture that should be grainy in consistency, not soggy or mushy (this is where the quality of the bread is decisive).

The pappa at this point can be either reheated to serve hot, or else served tepid or cold. To serve, place in bowls, add a few leaves of basil, and decorate with a "C" of extra-virgin olive oil.

Wine Suggestion: A young Chianti Classico goes extremely well with this simple dish. If you are lucky to find Giampaolo's Podere Capaccia, try this. Other favorite examples include Castello di Vicchiomaggio San Jacopo, Castello di Ama, Badia a Coltibuono, Felsina Berardenga.

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