Deep, unimpeded, sweet tomato flavor with swirls of garlic and rich velvety olive oil, bright fresh basil and, listen to this, your hunky crusty bread dips are already included! Make way for tomato and bread soup also known as pappa al pomodoro.
Pappa al pomodoro hails from the Tuscany region of Italy and is especially popular and fiercely claimed in Florence and Siena. It essentially translates to “tomato mush” and depending on where you have it and who is making it, it can range in texture from more of a porridge to a slightly thinner soup or stew consistency like we have here. But any way you have it, it is definitely all the yum. Just, all of it.
The ingredient list for tomato and bread soup like this is always beautifully short, each flavor standing on its own. Here’s what you’ll need for this version:
canned whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
dried or stale bread
extra virgin olive oil
Because there are so few elements, you really want to use high quality ingredients to reach peak flavor. San Marzanos are delicious, fruit, and less acidic than other tomatoes. You’ll want really good extra virgin olive oil both for the soup and for the silky drizzles on top for serving. Fresh basil as opposed to dried here. And a good crusty white bread will do the trick.
Let’s Make Pappa Al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)
As mentioned, this recipe is a little thinner than a more traditional pappa al pomodoro but by all means, if you want to thicken it up, you can adjust the broth/bread ratio (or omit broth altogether and just let the tomatoes serve as the liquid) until it’s so thick your spoon stands up! Which, depending on where you are, can be the mark of a truly divine pappa in Italy. You could also thin it out if that is more pleasing! Our texture sweet spot was usually a one cup of broth per ciabatta roll ratio.
Here’s how we did this one:
Tomatoes. Get your hands in there and crush!
Garlic & Olive Oil. Sauté garlic in oil until fragrant and then add your crushed tomatoes and let simmer for a bit. Then add your broth & basil and keep simmering.
Bread. Add dried bread to the tomato/broth mixture and simmer until the bread is soft. Then you can use a potato masher or whisk to keep breaking it down.
Serve. We served this with extra olive oil drizzles, more fresh basil, and ok also some Parm, yum!
What Kind Of Bread To Use Here
Italian tomato and bread soup is actually born of a time when it was the worst possible crime to let a single bit of bread go to waste (still feels accurate…we ️ bread), even if it’s a stale one. So traditionally, it’s made with very stale Tuscan bread, ideally left out for several days. Tuscan bread specifically is made without salt (which dates back to the 12th century when trade lines were cut off to Florence making salt super expensive!) and that meant the bread went stale rather quickly. Thus, this soup, and other delicious things like panzanella salad, was a way to turn stale bread into a dream of a dish.
Traditionalists say a no-salt Tuscan bread is the best here, but that is hard to find outside of Tuscany, so any crusty rustic white bread would do like:
ciabatta (we used the rolls, cut up and dried out)
any country-style bread
any other rustic Italian or French bread
Your Bread – The Drier, The Better!
If you haven’t thought ahead and left your bread out (or just happened to forget you had bread and it got stale all on its own! Go you! That’s not an oops, that’s a yay this time!), you can cut up your bread and toast it in the oven to dry it out.
Cut bread into slices/cubes or tear it up & spread on a sheet pan
450 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes until it’s dry (not browned), tossing midway
But again, if on a Monday you’re thinking, “Man, I’d love some tomato bread soup on Wednesday”, toss that loaf on the counter, friend, and just absolutely forget about it!
How To Pick Out The Best Tomatoes For Soup
If you find yourself with a glut of sun-ripened summer tomatoes on your hands, THIS IS YOUR MOMENT. All that fresh, unfussed, sweet tomato flavor is exactly what you want for this, so it’s definitely not the time for any hothouse, off-season tomatoes.
If you’re using fresh tomatoes:
Roma tomatoes are a great option, but really any super ripe, sweet tomato would do
Peel them by scoring with a knife, then giving them a drop in boiling water for a bit, and they should peel easily (tomato skins aren’t really a fun soup texture surprise)
But if you’re like us, you’ll want this soup easy and you’ll want this year-round and luckily you can have it! Thanks to really good canned or jarred tomatoes. Yay for simplicity! That’s how we do.
If you’re using canned tomatoes (like us!), some things to consider:
San Marzano tomatoes are tops (very high quality, grown in Italy, lower acidity)
whole peeled tomatoes (vs. diced/crushed) are best for optimal taste and texture
Crushing Tomatoes By Hand
Whether you are using fresh or canned, you’re going to want to crush those whole peeled tomatoes BY HAND. Yes, that’s right. Get in there. Not only is it a kind of delightfully squashy sensory experience, it really will give you the best texture. Some chunks of varying size and enough delicate bright red liquid.
When you blend your tomatoes, they turn kind of orangish once the air is buzzed into them so if you want to preserve that hyper-fresh, bright red, perfectly textured, fun-to-squeeze, chunky tomato goodness? Roll your sleeves up, friends, and get at it.
(Sure, you could pop them in a plastic baggie first and squish from there but where’s the fun in that?!)
Variations On This Tomato and Bread Soup
Though you might get a little side-eye from any Tuscan, especially around Florence and Siena, for adding anything but basil, garlic, tomatoes, bread, and olive oil to this soup, there are certainly ways you can play around with it! We added Parmesan to ours and it was delicious.
But if you’re already breaking soup laws, here are some other things to try:
hefty shakes of crushed red peppers for spice
some diced onion or carrot/onion/celery
a dollop of ricotta
Tuscan families could probably fight all day about their pappa recipes. To onion or not to onion, broth or hot water or “how dare you”…the list could go on! The simplicity of this dish and its ingredients is really what makes it shine though, so don’t be shy to let her stand as she is.
Extras To Serve Alongside This Soup
If you’re a rule-follower and don’t want to mess with soup laws, you can keep the soup simple and then just accompany it with some other lovelies like:
You have options! But you also have swizzles upon swizzles of rich olive oil and peppery torn basil and deep tomato flavor that already tastes like bread dips. You really are set.
Beautifully simple, fresh, rich, and delicious. You cannot go wrong with this soup.
Italian Tomato and Bread Soup: Frequently Asked Questions
How should I store or serve leftovers of this soup?
This soup will do okay as leftovers in the fridge for 1 day. It can still be eaten, enjoyed, and not too soggy. If you’re sensitive to texture, make the tomato base and add the bread about 10 minutes before serving the soup.
Do you recommend fresh or dried herbs for this soup?
Fresh is the way to go here, if you can find them in the store.
How can I make this soup vegan?
Just use a vegan Parm cheese, if you plan to add that in, and use veggie broth.
Make way for this Italian Tomato and Bread Soup! Rich flavors of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, thinly sliced garlic, silky olive oil swirls, and bread cubes throughout.
3 tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed or thinly sliced
one 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 teaspoonkosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4cupsvegetable or chicken broth
1/4cup packed fresh basil, chopped or torn
2–3cupsdry bread, torn or cut into cubes (see notes)
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic; sauté for 1 minute.
In a separate bowl, crush tomatoes by hand. Add them into the pot. Add salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer over medium heat for about ten minutes.
Add the broth and basil; bring back to a simmer for another ten minutes.
Add the bread cubes; simmer for another ten minutes until the bread is soft. You can use a potato masher to further break down the bread to your desired texture.
Serve with Parmesan cheese, extra olive oil, and more fresh basil! Simplicity and top notch ingredients… it’s just stunning.
For the bread, I’ve been using ciabatta take-and-bake rolls because I so rarely have a loaf of dry bread sitting around! I toast them in the oven until they’re pretty crunchy and dry, and then I pull them apart into small chunks to add to the soup. My rule of thumb is about 1 cup of broth per 1 roll. So 4 rolls = 4 cups broth, 5 rolls = 5 cups broth, etc. Obviously increasing the ratio of bread to broth will make the soup thicker, and vice versa! Make it what you want! ️
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:30 minutes
Keywords: tomato and bread soup, pappa al pomodoro, italian soup