This soup is amazing, just a handful of ingredients, and the main stars of the dish are over ripe tomatoes and stale bread that some crazy people would bin! I love peasant food, it can be some of the most satisfying and tasty food you will come across, and all for pennies, rather than pounds. Europeans have some fantastic recipes for using just a few things and bringing it together into something superb. This soup has its foundations in Italy, where bread is never binned. I made it for the first time about ten days ago when the fruit and vegetable shop I use had a big bag of mixed, very ripe, tomatoes for the grand total of fifty cents. I took one look at it and thought “mmm soup”. I had some leftover homemade bread that was only really fit for breadcrumbing so this recipe was perfect, and the family adored it. I had been thinking about making Ribollita or Minestrone, but wanted something that required less effort, and this is incredibly easy. There was genuine excitement when they saw me come home with another bag of tomatoes yesterday for fifty cents, knowing what would be the outcome!
This soup needs the tastiest tomatoes you can find, try to find ripe ones on the vine, plum tomatoes, mix the varieties up and maybe get lucky with reduced to clear at the supermarket, they can have blemishes, be soft and squidgy, but stay clear of the “salad” ones they sell as they are bland, the deeper the colour the better. This is the time for going to your local farm shop really. Chop off any mouldy bits but the rest can go in, I lost the tops off two of the tomatoes in the bag, but the rest, although some were very soft, were absolutely fine. A trick I learnt a while back is that if you have tomatoes on the vine actually putting the vine in and removing before serving will add taste.
This gives four to six generous bowls.
One and a half kilos of fresh tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
150 g / stale (or fresh!) white bread
a small bunch basil (one to two tablespoons once chopped)
20g freshly grated parmesan
a glug of olive oil
salt and pepper
500-750 ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
- Roughly chop the tomatoes into smallish pieces, and put it all into a big bowl. Liberally season with salt and pepper and stir it well. This will help get maximum taste from the tomatoes. Leave for about ten minutes.
- Finely chop the garlic, and put a good glug of oil into a large saucepan (approximately two to three tablespoons), put the pan over a medium heat and warm the oil up and add the garlic. You want it to sizzle but not furiously. Stir constantly for about one minute to the point where the garlic is just starting to colour.
- Add the tomatoes and all the juice they have produced from seasoning and bring the pan up to the boil. Reduce to a medium heat and stir every couple of minutes for about ten minutes until the tomatoes have all softened.
- Add 500ml stock, and roughly chop the bread up into small pieces, then add the bread to the pan. Make sure it is all submerged and stirred through.
- Cook on a low heat for about half an hour until you can see that the bread has mostly broken up and become a part of the soup, adding a bit more stock if it seems too thick during this time. At this point you could give it a rough blend, it should be thick and not entirely lump free though. Or you could break any larger lumps up with your spoon.
- Chop the basil and add, and add the grated parmesan. Stir well. Have a taste and season further if it needs it.
Serve, grate a little more parmesan over the surface, and enjoy!