Penne Pappa al Pomodoro (VEGAN), 21p

Penne pappa al pomodoro. Soaked bread crusts in tinned tomatoes are having their moment in my kitchen this week.

Penne pappa al pomodoro. Soaked bread crusts in tinned tomatoes are having their moment in my kitchen this week.

After yesterday’s culinary adventure with old bread crusts and tinned tomatoes (which turned out to be one of the nicest, bowl-lickingly-good things ever), I spooned the leftover portion of soup into a jar and stored it in the fridge, intending to make a soupy lunch out of it today. I opened the fridge about 12 o clock to find the bread had sucked and soaked up all the tomatoey soup base, and what was in my jar was a fat mass of soft and soggy bread, full of succulent tomato and garlic juices. It looks a bit like red pesto, I thought to myself, and decided to treat it like the pesto it so obviously wanted to become. I tipped it into the blender to whizz it up, thinned it out with a little oil, spooned it over pasta and had it for my lunch – and OH MY. Sitting overnight, hanging around in its own juices, the flavours had developed and intensified to a head-rushingly mouth-pleasing deliciously satisfying lunch… out of leftovers…

For those that didn’t or haven’t made the soup, here’s the recipe optimised as a pestoey style pasta dish. And for the pedants, I know it isn’t really a pesto, having no nuts or cheese or lemon juice or olive oil in it, but yah boo, it’s what it looked like. And my leftover-soup-portion made enough for two very very generous portions of pesto, making the whole thing even cheaper than yesterday’s lunch. I’m swapping the rosemary for basil in this recipe, as I added fresh torn basil to the top, and it was fresh fresh yummy yummy. And there’s a bit more oil in the sauce than there was in the soup. Slimmers, dieters, and other waistline-watchers might want to halve the oil and add a splash of water to thin it to the desired consistency instead.

Serves four at 21p each*

2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p
a pinch of salt, <1p
5 tbsp oil, vegetable or sunflower, 10p
400g carton of tomatoes, 35p
1 stalk (2g) fresh basil, 6p
60g bread, crusts are best but any bread will do (approx 2 slices medium cut bread), 7p
300g penne pasta, 21p (or cook 75g pasta per person, and store the rest of the not-really-pesto in the fridge)

First finely slice your garlic and add to a saucepan with the salt. Pour over half of the oil and turn the heat on very very gently.

After a minute, pour over the chopped tomatoes and add 250ml water and the herbs, and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, until it thickens and concentrates. It might seem like a lot of water, but trust me, it needs it, and it’s going to have even more in a minute…

After 15 minutes, tear up your bread and fling it in. Add another 250ml water (if you’re sceptical, add it a little at a time, but the bread sucks a lot of water up as it swells from bland boring crusts to soft and soggy pieces of deliciousness). Bring it to the boil again, then cover it to retain as much heat as possible (a lid, a plate, some tin foil) and turn the heat off. Leave it to stand for as long as you can bear it – I managed half an hour before I dived back in, but it’s one of those that improves the longer it stands around doing its thing, hanging out on the hob, developing its flavours…

When you’re ready to go, fling it in a blender and blitz it up. Dip your finger in and give it a quick taste – depending on your tomatoes it might be a little sharp – if that’s the case, just stir in a teaspoon of sugar to adjust it. Spoon it into a jar, stir in the oil to thin it – if you aren’t using it straight away the bits of bread bread will greedily soak up the juices – and store in the fridge until ready to use. Again, a good overnight rest will do wonderful, wonderful things to it, but if you can’t wait that long, pop your pasta into some water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes. Drain it, spoon over your sauce, warm through and serve.

*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I did my shopping this week, but things like carrots and onions are widely sold in many other places for similar prices. If you happen to find them ludicrously cheaper, please comment below as I’m sure my readers would love to know where the bargains are. Prices are also subject to change but are correct at the time of blogging. I worked them out like this:

Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics tomatoes 35p/400g. Fresh basil 80p/28g. Giraffe bread £1/800g. Basics pasta shapes 35p/500g.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter ( and Instagram ( and find me on Facebook at

…and if you enjoy my recipes, you might like one of my books – I like to direct people to the Hive, as they deliver to your local independent book store, or your house. They’re available in other places too, but I think the Hive is just great:

And there's still this much of this batch left! I might share it with the kids tonight... I'd better move it off my desk because I'm idly eating it with a spoon..!


  1. I had a mush load of left over tomato sauce and onion bread from weekend that had dried up. I squished it out onto foil, grilled it till it started to crisp then topped it with a slice of bacon and some grated cheese yummy!

  2. Jack,

    So glad that your new improved circumstances haven’t changed your outlook. Leftovers gone amok produces more for two instead of one! Thank you again!

  3. Reminds me of a favourite summer dish – Panzanella, which uses the same lovely flavours to make a salad. Check it out, it’s fabulous.

  4. Please can you change the print on the bit with the stripey background it is too feint for me to read..grey print is no good on good on that background.

  5. Good on ya, Jack! Nothing wasted! Today I recycled half a yolk’s worth of egg wash (yolk mixed with a bit of milk, then frozen in ice cube tray till it’s needed to brush a pie crust) by mixing it with water up to 1/2 a pint, adding 2 tsp of cornflour, 2 of sugar and 2 tbsp of dried milk powder, then a dollop of vanilla bean paste, a couple of whizzes round the microwave, and voila! Custard – which we poured over two of your yummy jammy puds (which I now make in batches of 15 for the freezer, though they’re gone in no time). I’m collecting all your recipe posts in a ring binder, though I’ll buy all your books anyway. They’re all brilliant.

  6. Oooops! Forgot to mention, the jam on the jammy puds consists of the leftover cranberry sauce from Christmas, of which I made miles too much and it set like jam – mixed with a jar of cheap strawberry or blackcurrant jam from one of the budget supermarkets. It’s a bit more chewy than ordinary jam, but at least cranberries are healthy!

  7. Isn’t pesto just the Italian for paste? In that case, it can include (or leave out) anything you like (or don’t have handy), as long as it works as a sauce. People make their own pesto out of all sorts of greenery nowadays and they don’t all require nuts – think about the allergy problem there – or cheese (eg vegans).

  8. Dear Jack,
    we have just had a cake sale in school using only your recipes! We used your book to read them from and have thoroughly enjoyed baking all this week. We raise £111.38
    We will keep on reading your blog and baking.
    Bread and pizzas for next term’s topic and we can’t wait.
    Love Yr 4 children at Oaktree Primary School in Swindon

  9. I made this last night to have for tea tonight but mines just like thick tomato soup after leaving it overnight and blending this afternoon, the only thing I did differently was I used less oil than the recipe says and I used a bit more bread.
    I’m sure it’ll still be nice, but if I do it again I think I’ll add less water and maybe just mash it up a bit instead of blending

  10. Have just attempted this, am hoping to leave it for until dinner to let the flavours have the most fun they can! Thanks for sharing

  11. Could I just mention that bread,preferably dryish, added to thin home-made soup and blended is a good way of thickening it up if you don’t want to use potato or other thickeners.I first found a dark mushroom recipe which advocated it and have used it since when I wanted to make a soup more substantial.Go steady and blend it in bit by bit so you don’t make it too gloopy.

  12. If it’s good and thick,use a pastry or dough tart shell. Dollop it in and add any bits of cheese,grated. Bake. That will give 4 portions. War recipe. You really do help people Jack. Have used your soda bread to do a cooking session for a group that have probe with severe depression. They were laughing and cracking rude jokes about bread jokes as they left.

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