Many thanks go out today to Natalie of Burned Bits for choosing this soup for her BB recipe choice for December.  As Ina describes it, Pappa al Pomidoro is a tomato soup that is thickened using traditionally day-old bread so as to not waste the bread.  As this recipe comes from Ina’s new Back to Basics, it’s another dish the BB group has chosen to get a jump start on a handful of new recipes.

As I perused Back to Basics this summer, I have to admit that this wasn’t one of the recipes that jumped out at me.  The idea of eating mushy bread wasn’t too appealing and I probably wouldn’t have made this soup had it not been chosen by the group.  So I put off making it for as long as possible…until Dec. 31st actually.  All in all I wasn’t disappointed. Kyle and I both really enjoyed the soup.  About the bread in the soup though? Not so much.  The texture of the bread in the soup was way to mushy for either of our likings.  So I ended up spooning around the bread chunks and eating the soup; and the soup by itself was actually fantastic.  I loved it.


So collaboratively, as we ate, we brainstormed about how fix the mushy bread.  We decided to remove some of the broth and veggie and to “boat motor” the bread to blend it into to the remaining soup then add the broth and veggies back.  We figured that would keep the soup thick but without the mushy texture.  It worked perfectly and I was SO excited that we didn’t waste all that bread by just fishing it out and tossing it away.  I’ll definitely make this soup again but will opt for thickening it with flour rather than bread so as to avoid the mushiness.  You’ll see that I skipped the topping and cut back on the amount of olive oil – I’m trying to cut back on the calories where possible.  With my changes, I made this into a 3 WW point dinner – sounds good to me!

Thanks again to Natalie for choosing a wonderful recipe!  Keep an eye out this month for a couple of delectable breakfast recipes: Banana Sour Cream Pancakes and Easy Sticky Buns.

Pappa al Pomidoro

source: Ina Garten, Back to Basics, page 68

  • 1/2 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.
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Leave a Comment

  • joelen
    January 2, 2009 at 8:16 PM

    This is on my list of dishes to make! It looks awesome and perfect for a winter day!

  • January 3, 2009 at 10:41 AM

    I’m so glad I read this. I’m just a tad behind on making this soup for BB but have everything needed so I can make and post this weekend. Good to know about the bread chunks, I may try a smaller dice and let them break up a little before serving. Great post, gets me excited to make this!

  • January 4, 2009 at 12:11 AM

    This recipe would have jumped out at me, but I love tomato soup!