I love a good tomato soup, and quite often with the humble tomato, simplicity is key. So imagine my delight, one evening, finding a recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro while idly leafing through the iconic River Café Cookbook ( Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers). I’d never heard of it, but fell in love instantly – garlic, salt, herbs, tomatoes and a little bread. Of course, the original calls for fresh tomatoes in late summer and ‘open-textured white bread made with olive oil, such as Pugliese’, given that the River Café is famous for tremendously good Italian cooking (and was home to a fledgling Jamie Oliver, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro and many many other great chefs of our time). I decided to see if I could make my own version, from my basics, including my stash of old bits of bread . Who has a toddler or fussy teenager, or even adult, in their household that doesn’t eat their crusts? I used to battle with my Small Boy in the morning about the crusts on his toast until I gave up. If he doesn’t like them, he doesn’t like them, and giving his toast a quick trim is easier than ten minutes of parrying – me insisting that he eats them, him nibbling and giving me looks out of the corner of his eye and grimacing and whining. Oh, it’s just not worth it, is it? So now I trim them off and fling them in a bag in the freezer. I blitz them into breadcrumbs when I need a small amount of them, rather than waste a whole loaf of bread, but today I dug some out for this soup. Bread crust and tinned tomato soup, given a fancy Italian name. Stay with me, it’s utterly delicious . . .
SERVES 2 from 29p each. This post is not sponsored; I provide links to the ingredients that I use so you can see how I calculate my recipe costs, and I may earn a small commission if you click the links or purchase any ingredients. All prices correct at the time of printing and are subject to change.
1 sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp mixed dried herbs, 7p (£1/30g)
Add the garlic to a saucepan with the salt. Pour over the oil and turn the heat on very very gently – I do garlic then heat, because quite often I’m doing a gazillion things at once in my kitchen, and the oil gets too hot because I decide to quickly wash something up and the garlic goes in and burns and I have to start the whole thing again. It just needs a gentle soften here, so garlic, salt, oil, gentle heat. Burnt garlic stinks. In all kinds of ways.
After a minute, pour over the chopped tomatoes and add 250ml water and all the herbs, and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the soup 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 the bread and fling it in. Add 250ml water (if you’re sceptical, add it a little at a time, but the bread sucks up a lot of water 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 off the heat. 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 dishes that improves the longer it stands around doing its thing, hanging out on the hob, developing its flavours.
Warm through to serve. Depending on your tomatoes, it might be a little sharp, so stir in the sugar as it warms through to adjust it (although it shouldn’t be after all that cooking and hanging around, but not all tomatoes are created equal). And enjoy!
Recipe from ‘Cooking On A Bootstrap’ by Jack Monroe. Like this? Made it? Comment below!
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All text copyright Jack Monroe.