The summer after I graduated from college Courtney and I spent a few weeks backpacking through Italy and Greece. We hit most of the major cities, saw most of the major sites and met some pretty awesome people. But as for many people who visit Italy, the food was a major highlight of our trip. We enjoyed large Italian lunches followed by several gelato stops between our large Italian dinners. Luckily, we also walked more than I’ve ever walked in my life. I still remember the night we had Pappa al Pomodoro, a delicious Tuscan tomato and bread soup. We were high on a hill-top in Florence, at an outdoor table overlooking the city. We were drinking wine. It was lovely.
Upon returning, I immediately packed up my stuff and moved to Petersburg, Virginia to work on the Obama campaign. In other words, I quickly went from some of the best cuisine in the world to the Campaign Diet, which many of you know consists of frozen X, convenience store Y and “I have a shelf-life longer than you’ve been alive” Z. By the time I moved to D.C. I was more than ready to transition back to cooking healthy, fresh meals.
I don’t remember whether it was our anniversary or Valentines Day, but my gift to Courtney (who at this point was living in Richmond working as a co-op for DuPont) was two Italian cookbooks and the promise that I’d cook him meals from them. The tomato bread soup stuck out in my mind so much that I bought the second cookbook just because it had that recipe. Well, two and a half years later, I made it for the first time. And reminisced about Italy.
Tomato and Bread Soup from Fresh Italian by Marina Filippelli
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic gloves, crushed
- 2.5 lb tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped*
- 2.5 cups vegetable stock**
- 7 oz day old crusty bread, crust removed
- 15 large basil leaves torn
- oil for drizzling
- 15 large basil leaves, torn
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
- Stir in tomatoes and their juice and simmer gently for 30 minutes
- Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then bread the bread into large chunks and stir into the soup until it absorbs the liquid and begins to break down. If too thick, add some boiling water.
- Remove from heat, stir in basic and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Nutrition: (serves 4): 209 cal, 7g protein, 35g carbohydrate, 5g fat, 6g fiber.
Place tomatoes in a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 30 seconds or until skin has loosened. When cool, cut a small cross at the base of each tomato, peel and discard the skin.
**Basic vegetable stock (I highly recommend making this a day or so in advance)
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 celery sticks, 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 leeks, 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- handful of parsley
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 8 pints of water
- Place vegetables, herbs and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Stir in the oil, cover and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and just beginning to brown.
- Pour in the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface, then simmer, uncovered, over a medium heat for one hour, skimming occasionally. Set aside to cool.
- Strain the stock into a clean pan. Boil vigorously until reduced by half. Once cooled, store the stock in a covered container in the refrigerator or freeze.