Sunday, September 3, 2006

Pappa al Pomodoro

This is a poor man's recipe that went upscale, and over many years this is the most requested recipe chez the CC.

The CC came across it in a bizarre manner.

Many years ago, the CC was in Firenze on a conference, and we went to a restaurant appropriately titled "The Mad Cook".

Now, this was a family space, and the chef was the seater, order-taker, and waiter.

In deciding the "specials of the day", given that he spoke limited English, he called this "tomato soup".

On ordering it, the CC had furious scorn heaped upon him by his friends -- "You come to Italy, and order tomato soup, etc."

The soup arrived. It was unreal. Everyone wanted a part of the action, and the CC allowed them all a meagre taste, and left them to their pathetic appetizers while he enjoyed a wondrous soup.

Two evenings later, the CC strolled by the restaurant to ask the chef about the recipe. The CC knows barely some Italian (Romance-language related), and the chef barely spoke English but somehow I convinced him that I was no rival chef, that I was a student, and "No, I will not open a restaurant with your recipe."

These are important things in Italy.


1 large red onion (coarsely diced)
lots of garlic cloves (chopped into largish pieces)
1 stalk celery
8 tomatoes (diced)
3 tbsp tomato paste (homemade, but use commercial, you wimps!)

basil leaves (two piles -- one loosely torn, one chiffonaded)
stale bread (cut into largish rounds)
olive oil.


Fry the onion and garlic till light golden. Toss in the celery. Fry briefly. Toss in the broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper (to taste), tomato paste. Simmer on extreme low heat till the tomatoes concentrate. This should also sweeten the mixture. Add two cups of broth/water, and bring to a slow rolling boil.

Turn off the heat, add the bread, and mix it all up. Make sure the broth covers all of it. Let it sit for a while.

Add the torn basil just before reheating.

When serving, serve with the chiffonaded basil, and fresh cracked pepper.

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