I am going to share something special with you today. It is a recipe of one of the most amazing soups I have ever tried. I will never forget how I “met HIM”. It was in Tuscany where I was lucky enough to spend happy 60 days in summer 2010. Once we visited Pietrasanta, a picturesque city lost in the hills of Tuscany. We stopped at the restaurant “Gatto nero” (“Black Cat”) in Piazza Caducci for lunch. Because it was very hot I decided to order a tomato soup. I thought it was a good idea to eat tomato soup in a hot day. Gosh! When they brought my plate I thought the soup looked very…”different”. Red. Thick. Rich. I tried it. It was so so so tasty. Bursting with flavours! The only ingredient I could recognise was tomatos. For the rest…I had no idea! When I asked the waiter I was very surprised to find out that the secret ingredient was…BREAD!
I know it all sounds really weird. But this is the perfect winter soup. And autumn. And spring. And summer. Try it and let me know what YOU think.
- 500 g ripe cherry tomatoes
- 2 X 400g tins of good quality plum tomatoes (use Napolina brand, if you can find)
- 500 g of stale good quality bread (Real bread. Not the supermarket sliced one. It must be a few days old.)
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- a large bunch of fresh basil (you will use the leaves as well as the stalks)
- the best quality olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them with one sliced clove of garlic and quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a roasting tray and cook in the oven at 180 degrees about 20 minutes.
Heat a large glug of olive oil in a large pot and add the remaining garlic and the basil stalks. Stir around and gently fry for a minute until softened. Add the tinned tomatoes, then fill the tins with water and add that water into the soup. Break the tomatoes with a spoon, bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Tear the bread up into a thumb-sized pieces (or a bit bigger) and add them to the pan. Mix well and season with salt and black pepper. Tear the basil leaves and add to the pan. Let the soup sit on a low heat for 10 minutes. By this time your roasted tomatoes will be done, with juice bursting out of their skins. Remove them from the tray, remembering to scrap all the lovely sticky bits from the bottom. Pour them into the soup with all the juices, basil and oil from the tray.
Stir your soup well. The texture will be thick, even porridgy! Add some more water if needed. Then remove it from the heat and add 6-7 spoons of olive oil.
Serve with a few basil leaves over the top if you like.
I tried a lot of dishes during those 60 days in Italy: seafood, risottos, meat, vegetables. But if you ask me:
– “What is the taste of Tuscany for you?”
– “Pappa al pomodoro!” – will be the answer!