Make Ahead

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Bread Soup with a Sage Oil Drizzle)

November 13, 2012
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4 plus leftovers
Author Notes

Pappa al pomodoro is the consummate comfort food. Humble, simple, rustic, and hearty, I am always amazed that five extraordinarily basic ingredients can be cooked into something spectacular. My sister lives in Florence and over the years, I've attempted to learn Italian so that I can converse with her friends and in-laws. I practice the language whenever I can and a few years ago, at my youngest son's school, I met a wonderful Florentine woman whose daughter was in his class. In my halting Italian, the first thing I asked her was her recipe for this soup. She kindly shared it, and while I've made it my own, I think of her each time I make and enjoy this dish! —em-i-lis

Test Kitchen Notes

I'm with Em: Pappa al Pomodoro has long been one of my favorite soups, especially of a winter's eve. Hers differs from mine in that she not only leaves the bread cubes whole (I've always puréed the soup when done), but toasts them in olive oil. She's generous with her San Marzano tomatoes, and her soup -- more like a stew -- is not only silken with tender bread chunks, but also greatly satisfying because of its texture. The drizzle of sage-flavored olive oil and crunch of fried sage leaves round out her subtle yet profound layers of flavor. Hint: fry lots of extra sage leaves. You'll find yourself crunching on them while the soup finishes, and you'll want to drizzle the oil with a liberal hand. —boulangere

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 plus 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic (more if you’re positively wild for garlic), minced
  • 1/2 cup (at least) fresh basil, shredded
  • 6 cups cubed or torn day-old bread (this is roughly one smallish loaf of ciabatta or French baguette)
  • 2 28oz cans San Marzano or other good quality whole tomatoes in juice + 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 10 fresh sage leaves, 6 minced, 4 left whole
  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 -- 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 it doesn't taste bright. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • cucina di mammina
    cucina di mammina
  • Babette's sous chef
    Babette's sous chef
  • Panfusine
  • lapadia
  • boulangere

28 Reviews

cucina D. February 17, 2014
I'm in love with this classic, been making this since I was a little girl with my Mama and Nonna. It still remains one of the best dishes past and present for me.
em-i-lis February 17, 2014
Hi cucina di mammina, Thanks so much for your note and perspective! Hope you enjoy a big bowl of this soon. :)
vaughan October 17, 2013
Quickly blanch fresh basil leaves, quench them and then pack into ice cube trays. Remove from trays when frozen and keep in another container. Prepared this way you always have portioned little cubes of basil on hand that taste almost as good as fresh.
Babette's S. October 16, 2013
As a half-Italian (2nd generation) American, I've been making Papa al Pomodoro since my first apartment in Boston in the late 1970s. I like the idea of the sage and sage oil here, which I plan to try but I also suggest (if you like some heat on a cold day) adding a few peperoncino flakes with the garlic. I also suggest using broth (chicken, beef or vegetable) instead of water. In addition to the basil, I like to add some chopped flat leaf parsley and grated cheese for serving. I use loads of garlic when I make it. Anyone I have introduced to this thick soup has been smitten with it and cannot get enough.
Panfusine October 14, 2013
This Has to be one of my all time favorite soups. Jenny's choice was spot on, Congrats em-i-lis! Craving the soup all over again now!
em-i-lis October 14, 2013
Thank you so much, panfusine! What a lovely, supportive note!!
cucina D. October 14, 2013
I love this recipe! My famiglia made a similar "bread soup" that contained no tomatoes, just stale bread, olive oil, water, garlic and herbs (sometimes if we were lucky some bitter greens)... this would cook on the stove and we would eat it up in one sitting. Thanks for sharing this wonderful version, will need to make this for my mammina and papa soon to share in some old food memories
em-i-lis October 14, 2013
Thank you so much for your lovely note, cucina di mammina! I hope you enjoy the soup and that it brings back the fondest of memories!
Babette's S. October 16, 2013
cdm, That sounds great...I must try your family's version without just the garlic, herbs and good olive oil would be wonderful, it would also be fantastic with broth instead of water and also some grated cheese. Thanks for sharing.
lapadia September 21, 2013
This is a must try, Emily! I slapped myself for not noticing it sooner!
em-i-lis September 21, 2013
ah, don't do that. :) hope you enjoy, l!!
Panfusine September 21, 2013
Fell in love with this soup by just reading the recipe.. Can I use fresh tomatoes, (I have 1/2 a bushel sitting in the kitchen right now) and if so, how do I prep it?.
em-i-lis September 21, 2013
Hi Panfusine, Thank you! And a huge congrats on your recent win in the WFM contest. That's awesome!
I think you can definitely use your fresh tomatoes. I'd simply stew them down a bit, peeling before or fishing the skins out as they release from the flesh during cooking. Add some salt to taste. This way, you'll have the right "sauciness" factor for pouring over the toasted bread in step 2. Does this make sense? Hope you enjoy!!
Panfusine September 21, 2013
Absolutely, In fact I already have a batch of tomatoes with their bottoms slit in a pan of hot water.. waiting to peel the skins & use.. Have some chewy 'Yesterdays bread' all cut up!
em-i-lis September 21, 2013
Great! Let me know how the fresh toms work!
Panfusine September 21, 2013
Made it, Polished it off, LOVED it! & Yes Posted pics too.. This was a perfect Saturday lunch, Thanks so much!
em-i-lis September 21, 2013
thank you so much, panfusine!! i'm thrilled you enjoyed it (and made it so promptly)! :)
boulangere September 20, 2013
I loved it the first time around, and it had recently crossed my mind that perhaps you would post it again. And so you did!
em-i-lis September 20, 2013
Thank you for your lovely review, then and now! :)
healthierkitchen September 20, 2013's perfect for fall as opposed to a winter soup, as we've still got a bounty of tomatoes and basil!
em-i-lis September 20, 2013
very true!! yay!
healthierkitchen February 26, 2013
One of my favorite tuscan soups!
em-i-lis February 26, 2013
aah, me too!!! when do you leave? soon, eh?
healthierkitchen February 26, 2013
few weeks!!
boulangere February 25, 2013
Ah, my old friend. How nice to see it again here.
em-i-lis February 25, 2013
:) I'll make it for you anytime!
boulangere December 6, 2012
Warm congratulations on being chosen as a CP. This is the quintessential bread soup, and I utterly loved testing it.
em-i-lis December 6, 2012
b, thank you so much, for this note and for testing. i'm so glad you enjoyed it!!! fondly, e