Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pappa al Pomodoro

Photos Courtesy of Jeff's iPhone...haha!
I first had this dish in Italy in 1985. I must say it is well…rather pedestrian. It isn’t much to look at and is best described as a ‘mush.’ But, at this time of year when tomatoes are plentiful and ripe, it is a wonderful dish! It is so satisfying because it seems to capture the essence of the season. The ingredient list is short and it doesn’t take long to make (about an hour.) It is great as a starter course or a light lunch with a salad. We’re getting to the end of tomato season. Make this before the rain starts!

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Ingredients-serves 6-8
2 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and quartered (I used Early Girls)
¼ C. extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 large sprigs fresh basil
½ large onion thinly sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 one-pound loaf of Italian batard or a non-sour dough bread
Salt to taste
For garnish: basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano

To Prepare
Add olive oil and sliced onion to a large saucepan on medium heat. Saute for 3 minutes and then add the slivered garlic. Add the hot pepper flakes, if using. Next add the basil sprigs, thick part of stem removed, all of the tomatoes, and a healthy sprinkle of salt. Increase the heat to high and cover. After a minute or two stir, making sure heat is not too high to burn the tomatoes. The tomatoes should have released enough juice to avoid burning though. Once at a boil, remove cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. The tomatoes are done once they become mushy and begin to break down. Run the mixture through a food mill. Alternatively, one could whiz the mixture in a blender for a minute, but I prefer the food mill method. This will yield about four cups of the most delicious tomato ‘sauce.’ Add salt as needed.

Remove the crust from the bread. You have a couple of options. Cut the bread into cubes and grind to a coarse crumb in a food processor, or tear the bread into small chunks. I used the tearing method in the pictures. I was trying to see if it would make a visual or textural difference in the finished dish. I would do hand tear method again because I think it looks a bit more rustic. You should have at least six cups of bread chunks. 

While the tomato mix is still hot, add the bread and let sit. Add the bread in stages, starting with 4-5 cups. Allow a few minutes for the bread to absorb the soup. If the mixture looks too soupy, add more bread. At this point don’t worry if it is a little soupy. I liked the stiffer, drier look presented here. Add more crumb if you so desire. Taste for salt, it will likely need more.

Serve as shown with a healthy drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil and plenty of strips (chiffonade) of fresh basil. Adding peelings of Parmigiano is optional, but oh so delicious! If you’re an anchovy lover, as am I, feel free to adorn this creation with a few fillets for that extra bit of goodness! Now out to the deck, glass of wine in hand and enjoy your delicious creation…and what’s left of Indian summer. Cheers!

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