A late summer burst of colours
Summer is when tomatoes are at their best, as they benefit from the warm sunny days to become red, intense, and full of beautiful flavours that those grown all year round in green houses could never aim to achieve. In Italy, we have some great tomato based dishes in the summer season, and this month’s recipe is inspired by one of those, precisely a Tuscan family meal called ‘pappa al pomodoro’.
It could be translated into some sort of ‘tomato soup’ although in Italian the word pappa is full of meaning, and any little kid would know that when someone says pappa, then it’s food time. Din dins, as we might call it over here. It is also an example of upcycling leftover food, to avoid waste and (in the original aim) to save money, as it uses stale, uneaten bread.
It is very easy to make, nourishing and comforting in its simplicity and can be made for little ones too, omitting the salt and the pepper (and the garlic should one so wish).
While most versions in Italy call for basil (and so does the recipe by author Annalisa Barbagli I used as a base), I have used fresh oregano because it grows so well here in the UK and I particularly love its more pungent and herby aroma. Do use good quality extra virgin olive oil as it really enhances the seasoning.
- 600gr ripe large vine tomatoes, good quality (keep the stem if possible)
- 150gr stale sourdough bread, cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to garnish
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 3 baby plum tomatoes or similar small tomatoes
- 1 small white onions, finely chopped
- A sprig or two of of fresh oregano
- 2 tbsp cow’s ricotta
- Boiling water (you’ll need about 1lt)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, the onion and the plum tomatoes (chopped in small pieces), letting them brown for a few minutes. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute, then cool under cold water; peel, remove seeds and the hard core and chop them.
- Add to the pan and let them cook for about 10 minutes, mixing every so often with a wooden spoon; if you kept the vine stalk, add it to the pan at this point, it will add extra flavour. Finally, add the bread chunks and boiling water, letting it simmer for around 20 minutes, adding water a little at the time if it dries up too much, it needs to be quite fluid. Season with salt.
- Towards the end, remove from the heat, remove the stalk and with a stick blender, smoothen it up; it will still need to be quite lumpy, but at least the biggest pieces of bread will be gone. This is another variation I prefer to make, as I like the smoother texture. Add the fresh oregano leaves and mix again
- Ladle in serving bowls, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a quenelle of fresh ricotta, which gives a touch of freshness as well as some reserved oregano leaves. Add some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Can be eaten hot or warm.