Pappa Al Pomodoro — The Weekender

By: Marisa McClellan
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Soup and bread are one of the most natural pairings I know. Truly, what goes better with a bowl of warm, belly-filling soup than a roll, hunk of baguette or even just a slice of basic, buttered toast?

The trouble I so often run into is the fact that I buy lovely loaves of bread to go with my batches of soup and inevitably end up chucking the last third of the loaf as it’s gotten too stale to be eaten. For someone who tries to keep the grocery budget in check and prevent food waste, this can be an awful blow.

Happily, there is an answer to my bread-waste issue and it’s found in (another) pot of soup. For centuries now, frugal Italian cooks have been reviving those day-or-two-old bread ends by adding them to the soup kettle. They work to thicken the soup, give it a silky consistency and generally manage to transform a humble vegetable broth into a sturdy, substantial potage.

This particular recipe for Pappa Al Pomodoro comes from Ina Garten and includes loads of vegetables and plenty of good bread for thickening. Start it simmering on a Sunday afternoon and ladle it up for a satisfying weekend supper. It’s another recipe that’s just perfect for The Weekender.

Before you heat your soup kettle, here are a few things you should know:

  • Ina doesn’t actually suggest that you use day-old bread in the recipe, but reviving a stale loaf is exactly what this type of recipe was designed to do, so feel free to substitute leftover baguette or another aging white bread.
  • This is a dish that gets better after a night in the fridge, so make a double batch and give yourself a weeknight off from the kitchen.
  • The recipe calls for chicken stock, but if you’re cooking for vegetarians, switch the stock out for one made with just veggies and omit the pancetta in the topping and you’re good to go.
  • This soup relies on plenty of fresh basil to give it flavor. This time of year, the fresh stuff can be quite expensive or downright impossible to find. Search out those frozen cubes of basil for a fresh-tasting alternative. I promise not to tell Ina.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars . Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars , will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.

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