Pappa al pomodoro is a rustic dish with flavors of home cooking and end of summer comfort food. While this traditional Tuscan dish is typically eaten hot or at room temperature, I prefer it slightly chilled when tomatoes are at their peak in early September. My chilled tomato and bread soup will make you look as if you spent a lot of time working in the kitchen. In reality, it is just those crazy tomatoes, doing the work of trenchermen with all their ripened, zingy flavor.
Dating back to the twelth century, pappa al pomodoro began when the rulers of Pisa were at odds with the rulers of Florence and cut off their supply lines from the coast. As a result, salt became prohibitively expensive and the Florentines began making their soups and other recipes without it as an act of rebellion. This is also where Pana Toscano, or Tuscan bread made without salt, was born. Also considered a farmer’s dish in the region of Siena, traditional pappa al pomodoro used to be prepared by housewives who made soup out of the left over bread to prevent waste.
Pappa al pomodoro is traditionally made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, stock, and of course, a good Italian loaf. I substitute the garlic for scallions in my version of chilled tomato and bread soup for a pop of flavor and fancier plating along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
As it’s nearing the end of summertime, I also toss in a handful of fresh basil leaves while I can still enjoy the spicy sweetness of the herb in season. If you crave this recipe in wintertime, use canned tomatoes (harvested at their peak) and fresh parsley as a garnish, topped off with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.