Pappa al Pomodoro (Or: How To Eat Tomato Sauce and Bread For Dinner)

I’ve been really into tomatoes this summer. Every Sunday I’ve been going to the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market, buying some juicy heirlooms, and using them in sandwiches, salads, tomato baths, you get the idea. You might think that now that August is over, tomato season is on the way out… but you’d be wrong! Most chefs agree that the best tomatoes come in September and October. We’re entering PEAK tomato season.

So why am I sharing a recipe for a soup made with canned tomatoes? Answer: sometimes, even in peak tomato season, you feel a little fresh tomato fatigue. Just the words “farmer’s market” and “heirloom tomato” sound annoying on a Sunday morning when you’re hungover, laying on the couch, and happy to be watching PBS cooking shows while pretending to read The New York Times. When dinner rolls around, you don’t have anything except a few cans of tomatoes, an onion, garlic, and that leftover bread from a few days ago. That’s when PAPPA AL POMODORO comes to the rescue.

Here’s how easy this soup is (and it’s based on this recipe from Mario Batali). Step one: chop an onion and saute it in olive oil with a little salt.

Add a few cloves of sliced garlic and when they’re fragrant, add a can of tomatoes that you’ve crushed with your hands (careful: they squirt. Use a big bowl.)

Add another pinch of salt and cook that down like you’re making tomato sauce because, essentially, you are. Oh: hold on to the can, though. You’ll use that in about 20 minutes.

While that’s cooking down, take a half of a loaf of bread or so (or however much bread you want to put in your soup) and cube it. I’d just bought a beautiful sourdough loaf from Cookbook in Echo Park, which totally reveals the first two paragraphs to be total lies: NO, I wasn’t lying on my couch on Sunday hungover watching cooking shows. I was driving around, Sunday, hungover and shopping at a fancy food boutique for artisanal bread. Look how pretty:

So you cut that bread into cubes. You could cut off the crusts, but to me the crusts of that kind of bread are the best part, so I left them on.

When your sauce is nice and thick, take that can that you still have and fill it with water. About a cup. And add it to the sauce (the reason you use the can is to get any remnant tomato flavor that’s still lingering behind). Add another pinch of salt and then add all of your bread cubes:

Turn up the heat a bit and cook the sauce with the bread and add some fresh basil while you’re at it:

Pretty soon you’ll have a thick, wonderful amalgamation of tomato sauce and bread and basil. I mean look at this:

And that’s basically it!

Ladle that into a bowl and dress it up with a drizzle of good olive oil, a sprinkling of red chile flakes, a grating (or lots of gratings, rather) of Parmesan cheese, and some sliced basil.

It’s a summery soup that feels wintery; or a wintery soup that feels summery. Pair it with a bold Italian red (I chose one from Mount Etna, because I like my wines how I like my women: VOLCANIC. Wait, what? I’m gay.)

And there you are… a tomato soup for lazy people who aren’t really that lazy and who love bread.

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  1. Oh!! I’ve missed you!!! So glad you are back. Your photos are so good and it all sounds delicious.

  2. “(I chose one from Mount Etna, because I like my wines how I like my women: VOLCANIC. Wait, what? I’m gay.)”

  3. Yours was the first food blog I started reading consistently many years ago. I have missed your absence from blogging and have checked back every couple months hoping to see more from you. So happy when I checked back the other day and found you had posted! Wishing you nothing but happiness with your renewed blogging as I selfishly want to see a lot more of it! Seriously though, I love reading about your cooking and your life, write whatever makes you happy!

  4. How about a way to print your recipes? I enjoy the photos and the blog, but I want something simpler when I’m at the kitchen counter putting a meal together.

  5. Hi Arthur, I understand your frustration. Let me see if there’s a plug-in I can use on WordPress to make that a feature of the blog. Thanks for the feedback!

  6. So thrilled you’re back! My daughter is just starting to cook and is moving in to her first non-dorm apartment. Had already printed out a bunch of your recipes but now I can just give her your blog link.

  7. So glad you are back~!
    I too would love to have a “clickable” recipe as I flip through my printed idea file on Sundays when meal planning – and I love how easy and lovely your food is to recreate!

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