Pappa Al Pomodoro Is The Bright Tuscan Tomato Stew Made With Stale Bread

Skyscraper-tall seafood towers and rare white truffles have their perks, but sometimes when it comes to a good meal, you can't beat the basics. And, few dishes are as basic as pappa al pomodoro. Don't get it twisted, "basic" isn't synonymous with "boring." There's a reason why foodies have been enjoying this flavorful, unpretentious stew for ages.

If you haven't tried it before, Tuscan pappa al pomodoro brings together tomato, bread, garlic, basil, and a generous drizzle of good olive oil. Despite its super simple ingredients, the result is an ultra-thick soup made even heartier by the thick slab of stale bread at the bottom of the bowl. This bready beauty acts as a powerful sponge, soaking up the tomato broth and morphing into a custard-like thickener. It's similar to acquacotta, another Tuscan bread soup.

Per the lore, this humble stew might have been created as a way for rural Italian home cooks to use up stale bread. Indeed, peasant cooking in Italy (aka cucina povera Toscana) has birthed such beloved culinary creations as pasta e fagioli, panzanella, and more. This culinary tradition involves dishes that only use four to eight ingredients in total and typically feature some combination of olive oil, bread, and whatever produce happens to be in season. Luckily for modern home cooks, you can use either fresh or canned tomatoes for pappa al pomodoro, making this dish a year-round gem no matter what's in season.

Both a finished work of art and a customizable canvas

For pappa al pomodoro, use bread that's stale but not yet petrified solid. The latter will be impossible to cut into slices. No stale bread on hand? You can easily fry up some homemade croutons. Also, if you're going the canned route with your produce, opt for San Marzanos, the canned tomato of choice for Ina Garten and plenty of others.

Even outside of Italy, pappa al pomodoro is a delicious part of a zero-waste kitchen, transforming stale bread into a one-pot meal ready to enjoy in about 30 minutes. To serve, garnish with torn fresh basil leaves, cracked black pepper, and olive oil. This stew makes a great starter before a larger meal or a killer accouterment to a simple green salad. It can be served both warm or chilled, and its simple profile means it can be doctored up however you choose.

You could top it with thin slices of umami Parmesan or add a pinch of red chili flakes for a little kick of heat. The broth is typically a combination of white wine and chicken broth but, for an easy vegan conversion, you can swap the chicken broth for veggie broth. For a more substantial meal, you could bulk up your pappa al pomodoro by adding ground Italian sausage. To really kick it Toscana-style, use wild boar sausage.