Pappa al Pomodoro, Straight from Tuscany

July 17, 2008

During a recent visit to Italy, my family had the pleasure of staying at Hotel Relais Borgo San Felice, a magnificent boutique located in the middle of the Tuscan wine country, about a 2 hour drive away from Firenze. Incidentally, this hotel is a Leading Hotel of the World member (see yesterday’s event), as well as part of the very exclusive Relais & Châteaux group.

During our stay, I was fortunate to partake in a hands-on cooking class lead by Chef de Cuisine Antonio Fallini, an accomplished chef who gave up his position as God at The Four Seasons Hotel in Toyko, as well as cooking for the rich and famous (he confessed to being a nervous wreck at the heels of preparing the late Princess Diana and Pavarotti’s meal) in order to take charge at San Felice. 

 

I want to share a simple yet absolutely delicious dish from the lesson which even a mediocre cook such as myself was able to successfully reproduce at home…Papa al Pomodoro (you must clench your fingers together and waggle them in front of your mouth when you say it). Translated, it’s Bread & Tomato Soup. You cannot get any more simple and pure traditional Tuscan than this (photo credit, below, to seppysils).

Ingredients:

  1. 500g ripe tomatoes
  2. 2 silver onions
  3. 1 garlic
  4. 50g basil
  5. 500g tuscan stale bread 
  6. 1 chili pepper
  7. Rock salt
  8. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  9. 1 and 1/2 cup stock of choice: vegetable, beef, or chicken
Procedure:
  1. Finely dice silver onions, garlic, chili pepper, cut tomatoes into chunks, bread into crouton-like pieces.
  2. In olive oil, fry the above ingredients for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and broth, allow to simmer for 15 minutes, occasionally whisking.
  4. Add the stale bread, leave to soak up the moisture for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt to taste, top soup with olive oil, garnish with basil.
And that’s it. Having tried this dish at numerous places around Italy, tastes varied. Of course, fresh ingredients is used across all, but I think the difference lies in the broth. So if anyone has secret recipes for amazingly fragrant broth, please do share! Note that this might not be the most visually appealing of dishes (my sister humorously pointed out that her rendition looked like vomit), so get creative with the garnishing.
If you do end up trying out this simple dish, please let me know what you thought. Other dishes Chef Fallini taught: potatoes and thyme ravioli pasta, black truffle beef fillet with mashed potatoes, and ricotta mousse with jam of figs.
 
Stay tuned for those!

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