I’ve been in an Italian mood lately. One of the things that’s been encouraging this is a cookbook I hadn’t pulled down in a while: Flavors of Tuscany, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. There is a real difference in Italian cooking and Italian-American cooking. There is an ease to these Italian recipes: many can be served hot or room temperature, which is tremendously helpful if you’re budgeting your time.
Last night, I made a pappa al pomodoro with Roma tomatoes from Wishwell Farm and the leftover ciabatta from Omega in North Market. I also used carrots and a celeriac that I picked up on Friday at the Pearl Alley Farmers Market. All this local produce simply prepared made for a lovely meal. The soup is a thick one, almost like a porridge. We served it fairly warm, but I can see making this mid-summer and placing it in a cool pantry before serving it.
Pappa al Pomodoro, inspired from Flavors of Tuscany
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 or 5 sprigs parsley
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound slightly stale ciabatta, or other country bread, in small slices
1 stalk basil
Pinch of Sugar
Extra virgin olive oil, sliced basil, ricotta cheese for garnish
Combine the tomatoes, onion, carrot and celeriac in a large pot along with 1/4 c water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking. Halfway through the cooking time, season with salt and pepper. Add a bit of boiling water to the pan if necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking. When the vegetables are very soft, remove from the heat and transfer to a deep bowl to puree with an immersion blender or to a food processor.
In a pot or teakettle, bring three cups of water to a boil. Using the same pot that you cooked the vegetables in, rinse it carefully then remove the excess water. Add in the olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add the garlic, cook for a minute. Add in the slices of bread mix with the garlic and olive oil. Add in two cups of boiling water and stir to break down the bread, adding up to another cup of water to keep it from sticking. When the bread is completely broken down, add the basil stalk, the vegetable puree and a pinch of sugar. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cook for up to an hour more (I only gave it about 15 minutes) over very low heat, adding a bit more water to keep it from sticking. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit before serving.