Okay, this one won't be loved for its looks. It's used to be seen as just some leftovers - thrown together into a pot and forgotten on the stove. Stale bread soaked in tomatoes. Peasants' food.
I've always wondered if there's something worth knowing about Pappa Al Pomodoro. After all, it's still around, and not only in Tuscany. So, when leafing through "Jamie's Italy", I always went back to the page with this tomato and bread stew. No matter how many other (more) beautiful dishes were pictured in this lovely book, it was time to finally find out about Pappa Al Pomodoro.
And I'm pleased to say that Jamie didn't promise too much: The oven-roasted tomatoes provided sweetness and concentrated flavour, the bread made for a smooth and silky texture, and the garlic gave it that little extra kick. Instead of the usual basil, flat-leaf parsley had to stand in and did a pretty good job.
For this recipe it's crucial to use good bread, in my case it was the "Heart of Wheat" Bread by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I left the crust on in order to retain some texture - otherwise this stew could easily turn into baby food. I had to add a little more liquid, it was still not quite as soupy as Jamie's version but never mind. Jamie stresses the importance of using good olive oil for this dish. Whilst I'm not using anything fancy or overly expensive, mine has a nice fruity smell to it that certainly contributed to the overall flavour.
It might not have the looks but this dish has a lot going for it.
Pappa Al Pomodoro
500g ripe tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes (cut into pieces if using bigger ones)
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves chopped (or use basil instead)
2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes (400g each)
500g of stale bread, crust on, torn into pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
In a roasting tray, toss tomatoes with some olive oil, the slices of one clove of garlic and a quarter of the herb leaves. Season with salt and pepper and prick tomatoes all over. Roast in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (or 150 degrees fan-baked) for 20 minutes.
Note: I covered the herbs and the garlic with the tomatoes to keep them moist during the bake.
In a big pot, saute the parsley stalks and the remaining garlic in some olive oil until soft but not coloured. Add the canned tomatoes. Fill both cans with water and add it, too. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot. Mix and season to taste. Add the remaining parsley leaves (reserving a little for garnish) and let stand on very low heat for up to ten minutes.
Remove the roasted tomato mixture from the oven and add to the pot, scraping everything off the tray. Stir thoroughly and add some more water if necessary (depending on how soupy you like it).
Check the seasoning, stir in some olive oil (Jamie suggests 6-7 tablespoons but this seemed too much for me) and serve sprinkled with herbs.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver: "Jamie's Italy"