Tuscan bread soup

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

This Tuscan bread soup, known in Italian as Pappa al pomodoro, is a classic recipe of Italian rustic cooking. Simple, cheap and filling, it makes a delicious lunch or light dinner. I'm sure that the fried sage elevates the whole thing to another level, but between you and me, I was too lazy to do it, and just ate the soup with fresh sage. Although it's not traditional, I actually put some Parmesan cheese as a garnish on this soup because I didn't really think my husband would like it that much. He's okay with tomatoes, but he doesn't really adore them the way I do and I thought the cheese might make it more interesting for him. As it turned out, he loved it.
You need a good crusty bread, or something fairly dense to stand up to the tomatoes and water. A lot of the bread will dissolve into the soup, but it's nice to have some chunks in there too, to give it a bit more texture. This is a great dish to have on a cold autumn night, accompanied by a nice glass of a full-bodied red wine.
This recipe is from the website Food52.

Prep time: 10 minutes  

Total time: 45-50 minutes  

Yields: 4 servings

Tuscan Bread Soup


  • 1/4 plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded
  • 6 cups cubed or torn day-old bread
  • 2 28-ounce cans good, quality whole tomatoes in juice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 10 fresh sage leaves
Cooking directions
  1. In a large soup pot, pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil and gently turn the pan so that the oil coats the bottom; heat over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add your garlic and sauté for a bit but don’t let it get brown.
  2. Add the basil and stir, then add the cubed bread plus some (at least a 1/2 teaspoon) salt and several good grinds of black pepper. When the bread is oiled and a bit toasted, add the tomatoes and their juices. Roughly mash the whole tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  3. Once this has all cooked together some, taste and add more salt if needed. Then, add water (about 2 and 1/2 cups) to get a thick but not super thick consistency. Simmer for a while, about 40 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. In the meantime, make the sage oil by heating the remaining 1/3 cups of oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. When it's quite hot, add all the sage and remove from heat. Let steep for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the whole leaves for garnish and strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve. When the soup is ready, ladle into bowls and drizzle some of the strained oil over each. Garnish with a fried sage leaf and serve.

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