Vine ripened tomatoes are simply one of the most luscious gifts the garden can produce. Words cannot describe their brightness and beauty. It is why I garden! If I can’t have fresh tomatoes, why bother? I believe that is the mantra of many home gardeners. We wait all Winter for that perfect fruit knowing the grocery store variety will always disappoint. Spring comes and our excitement translates into planting way too many plants in anticipation of that first pick. Then comes the reality. Help! I drowning in red ripe goodness and I need something to do with them. You can only eat so many BLT’s, right? I come to you today with yet another beautifully composed recipe for tomato soup, compliments of my girlfriend, Anne Burrell. You know I love that girl and want to eat everything she cooks. She is truly a culinary rock star.
This recipe is a classic example of simple Tuscan cooking. It uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and allows them to speak for themselves by highlighting their freshness and enhancing their flavor without overpowering. The use of day old bread is also a classic example of the Italian philosophy of waste not. In addition, the aroma will transport you to Italy and summon your neighbors to come to dinner. If you don’t want company, you might want to close your windows.
Rock it out this way.
TUSCAN TOMATO and BREAD SOUP 6 servings
Pappa al Pomodoro
Recipe by Anne Burrell
Extra virgin olive oil, plus high quality finishing oil for garnish
1 large red onion, diced (I used 2 leeks and ½ small red onion)
Kosher salt (I used sea salt)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1c white wine
2 lbs. ripe summer tomatoes, diced (I used fresh San Marzano variety)
10 basil leaves, leave 5 whole and 5 cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
2c tomato juice (I used V-8)
2c day-old Italian bread, crusts removed and cubed
½ c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Coat a large wide pot with olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, to taste, and cook until the onions are soft and very aromatic, about 8-10 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
- Add the wine and cook until it has reduced to half.
- Stir in the tomatoes, season w/ salt, to taste and cook until tomatoes are really soft and juicy, about 12-15 minutes. Toss in the whole basil leaves.
- Working in batches, carefully puree the tomato mixture in a blender or using an immersion blender, puree in the pot until smooth.
- Return the mixture to the pot and add the tomato juice and the bread.
- Cook the soup over medium heat until the bread has completely lost its shape and the soup is really thick, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and serve garnished with grated cheese, basil chiffonade and a drizzle of big fat finishing oil.
Chiffonade: Place basil leaves in a stack and roll them together. Slice into thin ribbons.
Notice I veered slightly from Anne’s directions so I put in parenthesis my changes. Why did I change things up a bit? Because I can, it is my nature and I can’t help myself, I used what I had on hand, all of the above. I am a firm believer in making things your own. After all, you are the artist and this is your creation. The result was well-balanced and a total taste treat, not to mention very beautiful.
You may remember I posted a recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup during last year’s harvest (August 2012). I have said for years that this is by far the best tomato soup recipe ever. I still really love it but Anne’s recipe is equally as good and offers a unique texture and mouth feel. It is hardy enough for a main course yet light enough for a small first course.
Hope you enjoy this as much as we did. It’s harvest time so spread the love one tomato dish at a time. Until next time, Buona Tavola (good food) and Ciao!