Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)

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This Tuscan soup is more like a hearty stew than a soup, and it may not look great but it’s so incredibly flavorful and delicious. It only requires a few ingredients and can be made very quickly. In Italy, it’s made year-round with a few modifications; in the summer months when plum tomatoes are aplenty and ripe, they make it with fresh tomatoes. When the tomatoes are not in season, they make it with canned plum tomatoes. If you make it with the canned tomatoes, make sure to buy Italian-made because they will have nothing added (no salt, no preservatives—just tomatoes). And I have never tasted better tomatoes than fresh Italian tomatoes. They are exquisite. I watched about five Italian YouTube videos to see how differently each chef makes this dish, and I made mine based on theirs. There are a few ingredients that you don’t change: lots and lots of fresh basil, vegetable broth, stale crusty bread (I used a white Artisan-style bread), and of course the tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS

1 28-oz can Italian-made (I used Cento) crushed tomatoes (you could use whole)
1 beefsteak tomato (skinned), chopped (I added this because I wanted more chunky tomato)
1 32-oz carton organic vegetable broth (or, you could make your own)
About a half a loaf of stale Artisan-style hard bread, cut into ~2-inch chunks
About 2 cups of fresh basil — I used fresh from my garden
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (you could use leek bulb, instead)
3 carrots, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, whole but smashed (you’ll remove them once the soup is cooked)
EVOO (high quality)
Salt and pepper, to taste

METHOD

Generously swirl olive oil into soup pot and heat on medium. Add the garlic and stir around for a few minutes in the olive oil. Next, add the carrot, celery, and onion. Stir to mix and let cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent, but not brown. Add the canned (and/or fresh chopped) tomatoes, stir well to mix. Tear about a third of the basil into the mixture (never cut or use scissors—always tear it). Mix and let this mixture simmer for about 5 minutes. Add about half of the carton of vegetable broth, stir. Add the bread, mix well and simmer on low. Add some more torn basil leaves, and the rest of the vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper according to your taste. Simmer and let the bread become really soft and mushy. Remove the garlic cloves. Serve in individual soup bowls, garnish with fresh basil, and (optional) drizzle a little olive oil over top.

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