"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Cold comfort soup (Pappa al pomodoro)

by Julie Tilsner on November 12, 2008

in Soup is Easy, Soups

I was starting to worry that autumn would never come to Southern California. It seems to be arriving later every year. The kind of crisp fall weather I remember as a kid in these very same parts doesn't seem to be in stock anymore. The summer pushes deep into October these days, and this year even into November. Now that the weather has finally turned, I find that I am unprepared. I have no close-toed shoes, for example. And only one pair of socks. 

I find that I cling to the ways of summer. I want the long-sleeve t-shirt to suffice. I want to sleep with the windows open. I want the last three tomatoes on my long-suffering vines to ripen and I am slow to realize why they might not. The seasons, they have finally changed. And while I am greatly pleased, when I want warm comfort food to fight back the 5 p.m. gloaming and chill, all I can think of is tomato soup.

The universe said yes to my plans this evening. Through happy circumstance, I happened to have every single ingredient needed to make pappa al pomodoro, or the Florentine tomato and bread soup that would warm my soul and nourish my children (if I served it with a side of pasta and promise of meringues afterwards).

I had a large can of diced tomatoes in the pantry, olive oil, 4 large garlic cloves, tomato paste and vegetable broth. I actually had half a loaf of ciabatta bread, two days old and ready to be shredded for just this soup. In the ultimate nod of approval from the universe, I had fresh basil, because a girlfriend had come for dinner just last night, bearing a basil plant and a bottle of wine. 

The recipe comes from Kitchen Goddess Christina, adapted from Julia della Croce's wonderful The Vegetarian Table: Italy.

4 large ripe tomatoes (canned works just as well – I used a 24-ounce can of Trader Joe's diced)

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some extra for drizzling
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and "bruised." (I smashed them with a knife…is that abuse enough?)
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces (about 3 tablespoons)
4 cups or so of vegetable broth (water also works fine)
1/2 pound stale bread, torn or shredded
salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Gently saute the garlic cloves until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and about two tablespoons of the basil. Simmer on medium-low heat until the tomatoes thicken, about 20 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to mix. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the bread and toss everything together. Continue to cook until just heated through and the bread has absorbed liquid and become "pappy." You can remove the garlic cloves at this point, but I left them in. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, throw on the remaining shredded basil and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Such warmth! Such aroma! Such taste! The girl, well-evolved, uttered accolades as she slurped down her bowl. The boy, less-impressed, said it was OK, but too hot. He later asked for an apple to round out his meal. Me? I ate two bowls, because it just made me feel good. Content. Warm.

Better than the finest cashmere socks, in fact.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

christy November 13, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Sounded so good….I had to make it last night! It was yummy! Will loved it and kept telling me how good it was. Kate…..she never tries anything new….this included. Just means more for the rest of us. Thanks for the recipe!


zurin November 25, 2008 at 12:44 am

Hi Juliet!
Love ur blog! I just tagged u! Check my blog ok!


zurin November 28, 2008 at 4:58 am

I just realised how ridiculous all those exclamation marks look. i had a good laugh looking at my comment..cant for the life of me understand why I did that..:D


zurin November 28, 2008 at 4:59 am

I just realised how ridiculous all those exclamation marks look. i had a good laugh looking at my comment..cant for the life of me understand why I did that..:D


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