Tuscan-Style Tomato and Bread Soup

Preparation info

  • Makes

    6

    Main-Course Servings
    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Get in There and Cook: A Master Class for the Starter Chef

Get in There and Cook

By Richard Sax

Published 1997

  • About

From Tuscany, this dish is a “pap” of dead-ripe tomatoes and coarse country bread. As the Italians put it, this soup is “comforting like the mother.” Notice in the ingredient list that in some instances dried herbs should not be substituted for the fresh—the special flavor of fresh makes a noticeable difference.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium-size yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 scallions (white and green portions), trimmed and thinly sliced
  • cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus several small sprigs for garnish (do not substitute dried)
  • 8 or 10 fresh sage leaves, chopped (if available; do not substitute dried)
  • 4 fresh oregano sprigs, leaves stripped from stems and chopped (if available, or substitute a small pinch of dried oregano)
  • Salt, to taste
  • pinch of dried red pepper flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 2½ pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded (Tomato Basics)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 8 ounces coarse Italian, peasant, or sourdough bread with crust, preferably 1 or 2 days old, cut into 1-inch cubes (4 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups chicken broth, preferably reduced-sodium homemade
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fruity extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Parmesan cheese shavings or freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

    Method

    1. Heat the olive oil in a nonreactive large saucepan or casserole over medium heat. Add the onions, scallions, half of the basil, the sage, oregano, a sprinkling of salt, and the dried pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the onions are very soft and lightly golden, about 5 minutes longer.
    2. Add the tomatoes, either breaking them into rough chunks with your fingers as you add them to the pot or breaking them up with a wooden spoon as they cook. Stir in the tomato paste and a sprinkling of salt. Cover the pan and stew the tomatoes gently for about 20 minutes, stirring them with a wooden spoon from time to time and breaking them up even more as they cook.
    3. Meanwhile, if the bread is not day old, dry out the cubes of bread slightly on a baking sheet in a 300°F. oven. Add the bread cubes to the tomato mixture and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, so that the bread cubes absorb the tomato juices. Stir in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Partially cover the pan, remove from the heat, and set aside for at least 1 hour so the bread can thicken the soup.
    4. Reheat the mixture over medium heat until it is warmed through. Stir in the remaining basil, plus more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve warm, topping each bowlful with a basil sprig and drizzling some extra-virgin olive oil over each portion. Form thin shavings of Parmesan with a vegetable peeler, letting a few shavings fall over the surface of each portion of the soup. (Or simply pass a bowl of grated Parmesan at the table.) Make sure there’s a pepper mill on the table.