Pappa al Pomodoro

February 25, 2009

I got several questions about how to serve the flatbread. Is it an appetizer? Side dish? Bread? Truthfully, it is whatever you want it to be. The three times I have made it, I have served it as a sort of side. There were substantial other things to eat – like this soup. More on that in a minute. But I can also see it sliced into thin pieces and served as an easy-to-pick-up appetizer. I can see it as a main course served with a nice savory salad. You could even serve it as a pre-dessert course instead of a cheese plate. The possibilities are endless.

I chose to make this soup simply because it was a cold day and it caught my eye. I have made one other version of Pappa al Pomodoro which I found incredibly delicious but this one was even better. I assume that the “real” version of this soup is much more simple – that’s the beauty of Italian home cooking, right? But I have to say that I loved the boost of flavor that carrot and fennel added here, and I loved the textural contrast of the croutons and crispy basil on top.

I served big bowls of the soup, the flatbread, and a big salad with lots of yummy things in it (avacado, mushrooms, tomatoes, hearts of palm, etc.) For dessert, a three layer cake with Kahlua in the cake, the custard in between the layers and in the frosting. I did not take a picture of it because, in spite of taking a cake decorating class last weekend, it was crooked and had lots of crumbs in the frosting!

Other vegan soup recipes on DanaTreat:
Tome Yum Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms
Orange Pepper Soup
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Pappa al Pomodoro
Adapted from
Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics
Serves 6-8

I intended to vegetarian-ize this recipe by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock, and by leaving out the pancetta called for in the garnish. I unintentionally vegan-ized it by forgetting to add Parmesan cheese right before serving. If you want the cheese, add 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan either to the whole pot right before serving, or add it to the individual bowls.

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped

1 cup medium diced carrots

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced

4 tsp. minced garlic

3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread

2 (28 ounce) cans good quality Italian plum tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 dry red wine

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:
3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread

30 whole fresh basil leaves

Olive oil

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onions, carrots, and fennel. Cook for 7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes.

Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. (DN: I just stuck my immersion blender directly into the can to save washing the food processor.) Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the vegetable stock, red wine, basil, 1 tbsp. salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. For the topping, place the ciabatta and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, and beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. (DN: I used my immersion blender again here.) Serve hot sprinkled with topping.


  1. This is a great accompaniment to the flat bread. I think anything with tomato and basil will go well with bread/pizza type foods.

    Comment by veggie belly — February 26, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

  2. I can’t wait until I go home during the summer to make this :) Summer tomatoes will really shine in this, especially if chilled, thickened a little and spread on ciabatta instead of served as a soup! Thanks for the great ideas!

    Comment by Chris @ Beyond Ramen — March 4, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

  3. Yum! I made this last night, and B loved it. The fennel root gives it the best flavor. Using the immersion blender in the can is brilliant! I hate dragging out and cleaning that food processor if I don’t need to. Thanks for posting that one, I was waiting to try it out myself. This one is a keeper.

    Comment by Mara — March 13, 2009 @ 1:58 am

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