Pappa al Pomodoro

11:00 am on 15 March 2019
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Bread is revered in many cultures, and an Italian family would no more throw away a crust of bread than throw away a euro! Leftover bread is dried and grated into crumbs, or reconstituted in liquid and used as a thickener in soups or stews. Traditionally, this Tuscan soup has the texture of lumpy porridge, but I much prefer the crusts to have a crunchy edge. It is usually made in summer when tomatoes are ripe and plentiful, but this version, a 'best-ever', using both canned and roasted vine tomatoes, is scented and richly flavoured, chunky and textural, and is good at any time of year. Photo: Aaron McLean photography

Serves 6


  • 500g small vine tomatoes
  • flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and caster sugar for tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 x 400g cans crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 cups water
  • salt
  • 200g ciabatta crusts (see below)
  • top-notch extra virgin olive oil, or lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


1 Fast roast tomatoes with flaky sea salt, black pepper and caster sugar as described below, then cool.

2 Tip canned tomatoes into a bowl and pick over to remove any rogue pieces of skin, cores or greenish bits. Chop half the basil leaves. Put 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil into a medium-sized saucepan and add garlic and chopped basil. Set pan over low heat and let basil and garlic infuse the oil for 10-12 minutes, then increase heat a little and cook until garlic is a pale nut-brown. Discard garlic. Pour in canned tomatoes and water (rinse cans with some of the water to get any last juices). Bring to a gentle boil, then lower heat and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 Meanwhile, scoop tomato flesh from skins of roasted tomatoes (discarding tomato skins) and add to soup with 1½ teaspoons of salt. Reheat soup until hot (don't let it boil).

4 Put some baked ciabatta crusts in the bottom of each soup bowl and spoon soup on top. Drizzle with a little exquisite olive oil and strew with remaining basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Ciabatta Crusts


  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Flaky sea salt


1 Preheat oven to 180°C (regular). Line a shallow ovenproof dish with baking paper.

2 Break ciabatta apart into rough pieces. Transfer to lined dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Use the edges of the paper to gently toss the crusts together so they are evenly coated in oil and salt. 

3 Bake in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes, or until crusts are lightly browned.

Fast-Roasting Halved Tomatoes


1 Preheat oven to 210°C (fanbake). Line a shallow ovenproof tray (I use a Swiss roll tin) with baking paper.

2 Cut tomatoes in half and put them cut side up in lined ovenproof tray. 

3 Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and caster sugar and grind over plenty of pepper. If the recipe calls for it, distribute lemon zest, basil or other herbs over tomatoes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil or dot with butter, as specified. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until tomatoes have collapsed and edges are deep golden and just starting to char; do not let them blacken.


From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

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