Apr 17, 2009

Pappa al Pomodoro - Tuscan bread soup recipe

I crashed the wrong wedding. I was supposed to sneak into a much sought-after VIP social event wedding banquet in a Villa in the outskirts of Florence with three friends who had invitations. We inevitably got lost in the dirt roads creeping around a verdant hilltop and ended in what we ignored was another Villa, where a lavish wedding reception was being grandly celebrated. It was not the one we were aiming for, but when we found out it was too late. We were welcomed at the gate, escorted in the garden and immediately introduced to the bride and groom, who waved us in courteously and fainly aloof. Just like the characters in the 2005 film Wedding Crashers, my friends and I were somehow able to bluff our way through the wedding party when guests and relatives asked who we were. I pretended to be a wealthy American oilman's daughter, while Bruno, Emanuela and Cesare played the fashion industry card.

I was young and carefree, then. Just out of university and high on life. The excitement of sneaking into a forbidden realm, and acting out a part like in a film, had me all worked up. I started hovering over the champagne buffet quite soon. When I was informed that this was yes an Italian nobility wedding, but without any slim connections to any of the guests, and our foul play surely soon to be discovered, I downed a few bubbly flutes in a row. Needless to say, I got very drunk. Very quickly.

I made a total fool of myself, as I always do when Dancing Under the Influence.

I did the following things, before being chased off the premises by a well-upholstered bouncer, complete with earphone and Armani tuxedo.

I walked away from the buffet and dropped my 'all-you-can-eat' heaped plate 2 feet from the bride and groom's table, spattering food everywhere. All I remember is the luncheon gazebo going very silent. It was an instant which to me lasted a geologic era.

I fell in the pool.

I lost a Ferragamo sandal.

I cried, and my eye make up bled even more, making me look like a 1930s silent movie diva.

I hit on the caterer chef.

And subsequently dated him for a while.

The dish that stole my heart on that roller coaster evening was a poor man's soup. I loved the idea of attending a blue blood event and watching the bejewelled guests ceremoniously sip on what Tuscan housewives fix to re-employ stale bread. I found this a touch of genius.

I asked to be introduced to the caterer to give him my regards and compliment him on the tongue in cheek menu choice. The rest is slurred kudos, clumsy flirtation and quite a number of great intimate meals.

Here's the recipe to that wonderful soup, I had way of obtaining it during our brief liaison.

Pappa al Pomodoro is cucina povera at its utmost. This summer Tuscan bread-and-tomato 'pappa' (Italian baby talk for food) sounds like a kid's dish, and in fact it is – but for kids of all ages. In the past it was also very much an unpretentious meal, a tasty and clever way to use leftover bread that no housewife would ever dream of serving to a guest. Now it's on the menus of Florence's trendier restaurants. And socialite wedding receptions.

To serve 4 (or less, expect guests to want multiple servings) assemble:

2-3 garlic cloves, whole
1/4 cup olive oil
250 g (1 cup) unseasoned tomato sauce
500 g (2 1/2 cups) day-old Italian or sourdough bread, crumbled
1 liter (1 quart) of vegetable broth, or more as necessary – heated
2-3 sprigs of fresh basil
2-3 sprigs of fresh sage

Prepare a bouquet garni by placing herbs and garlic in a knotted gauze.

Put all the ingredients––except the broth––in a large stewpot.

Simmer adding heated broth for about 15 minutes, or until the bread has fallen apart, then season to taste.

Remove the herbal pouch and whir the soup in the blender, adding more stock if necessary.

Serve sprinkled with more freshly torn basil and good olive oil dribbled in abundance.

That's it, so simple.

Buon Appetito.


  1. Oh no. You lost a Feragamo sandal. You didn't go back the next day to get it. I can't imagine why. I bet they still tell the story of the young woman who crashed their wedding, as my husband and I still tell the story of the drunk who fell in the fountain right outside the picture window in the middle of our vows in a Justice of the Peace's office. It was 10:00 a.m.
    Wedding crashers, great movie. Now they need to make one on funeral crashers. Good food there too.

  2. What a youthful story! I was never that spunky. I do remember attaching myself to a friend once and felt so darn guilty, not knowing anybody else, that I didn't enjoy anything.

    The poor man's zuppa is repeated everywhere with local ingredients. I grew up after the war, in Basilicata, the poorest of the regions. We zuppa of stale bread once or twice a week, utilizing every scrap, heel of bread that had become too hard to chew. On Mondays, Mother made bread and father transported the loaves to the common forno before he left for work. On those same days, she made pizza to be baked at the end of the bread sequence. You just brought all that back. Thank you, thank you, Lola.

  3. I love how now it so trendy to use up leftovers.I've been doing it always,just like my mother taught me.
    We have trendy restuarants that serve up food that once was consigned to secret eating, now it's de-rigour to love sausage and mash on a night out!!

  4. Lori - That's another funny wedding crash story!

    Rosaria - you HAVE to tell me about your baker/breadmaker heritage. Your mother sounds like a special woman. Brave to let you go so far away, too.

    Mandy - Isn't that funny? I being the home food advocate can only rejoice at such new trends.

  5. That was hysterical! My kind of friend! Me and a friend used to go toilet papering other peoples cars after a few bottles of wine, and leave on- the- spot- written poetry attached to the car on a paper bag. (all this while we were in our 20's and parents already) My friend and I got caught by a passing police man, but my friend got us out of it by flirting heavily with him and giving up her phone number. Those were fun days! This sounds delicious, by the way!

  6. I can see my 22 year old self doing something like that. Uh, actually I can see my 38 year old self doing it too but only with the right companions!

    What fun! That's the story you will tell your grandkids and the reason they'll think you're cool.

    The soup looks delish. Am making it next week. Thanks!!


  7. I do love hearing about your wild child side. And I've always wanted to try this soup. So two, two, two great things in one funny post.

  8. ohmygod, no you didn't. I love you even more now. Did your night end in six stiches to the head? Tell me it did. If so, we're soul sisters.

  9. I'm intrigued, Lola - what happened to the sandal? This sounds like a modern Cinderella tale!!

    Thanks for the visit and the witty comment.

  10. great story, told well...and a recipe to boot. will have to get my wife to try it out. i take it the bouncer never caught you, but he may be carrying around the shoe checking feet just in case.

    thanks for dropping by, see you soon.

  11. Oh Lola! I LOVE your story. It's so funny. You're right...the blogosphere brings together people who have things in common. I never lost a Ferragamo sandal, but there are similar threads to your story and some of mine!

    Please know how much I appreciate your lovely, kind and generous feedback on my memoir-y thing today. It means so much to me. Thank you sincerely and I'm going to do more of those in the future.

    This is the weekend I make homemade pasta. I attempted your version of artichokes tonight, but I think I missed something. I couldn't get all the fuzz out. I probably skipped over some of your instructions in my haste to have something delish. I'll try again.


  12. Thanks for another humble/wonderful meal...
    Happy days

  13. Your tales are delicious :-)

    thank you... Ribbon

  14. LaDue - Viva the power of pheromones! Naughty AND nice.

    Doodah - Oops! Hope you like the Pappa...

    Patrizia - 2 reasons to say PREGO!

    Erin - No stiches, no. But my dignity was ripped to shreds (it was actually a lot of fun).

    David - Thank you, sir! I'm honored that you could stop by for a bite to eat. I omitted the part about finding the sandal, heel-less in one of the Villa's many powder rooms. Very un-Cinderella...

    Brian - I may have been drunk, and oftentimes overweight, but I'm always swift when it comes to escape. Thank you for stopping by!

    Sallymandy - uh oh, fuzz. I warned you about choke fuzz, didn't I?

    Delwyn - Feeling better?

    Ribbon - Thank you, I appreciate it.

  15. That is a funny and hilarious story, Good times I bet!! I know while under the influence dancing, we all think we look great!!
    This tomato soup is one to try for sure. Bread within yummm!!

  16. Lola, you are so funny and warm. You must be very spontaneous and laugh a lot!

  17. The best story so far Lola. I loved getting this glimpse of you. And I know there are more stories about you and the chef.

    Love Renee xoxo

  18. Falling in the pool...that would have been a sight to see. Sounds like you were a mess, but what memories. :)

  19. Chuck - It's very good, you should try it yes.

    Jennifer - I do! And my laugh is terribly loud.

    Renee - Not that many stories about the chef actually, he soon turned out to be quite boring outside the kitchen.

    C.Michael - That was very embarrassing...

  20. Found you at POTD! Congrats and what a story! Sounds like the best of being young!

  21. Congratulations for making it to David's POTD. Great post. I am still laughing, and to laugh is what I need right now, trust me. I would do some thing like that too except right now, it seeems tooo far fetched.
    thanks again for stopping by at my post, and Congrats again. I think I m going to try that great looking soup.!!!

  22. Loved your story!

    Found you via David's authorblog and love that I'm now one of your followers. Looking forward to more of your posts!

  23. I think most of us have that desire to gratecrash a lavish event. Not sure I'd have guts though!!

    CJ xx

  24. I would like to thank David McMahon for nominating this post for his philanthropic POST OF THE DAY, and for allowing me to make many new friends. Grazie David!

    TTWC - I was very young... but I still get myself in the same kind of trouble sometimes. I'm addicted to laughter...

    Introspection - Thank you! Go ahead, dig through my archives for more giggles and tasty comfort food: the cure to all ailments.

    Gaston Studio - Thank you for stopping by and becoming a regular here! More good food and stories to come.

    Crystal Jigsaw - Aw just try it, for once! (Then you'll be hooked)

    Mimi - Thank you very much!!

  25. WOW what a fantastic story! I've always wondered if people actually crash weddings and it sounds like you had an experience you'll be telling your grand kids one day.

  26. What a story, I'm laughing out loud! I could only wish I had been that gutsy!

    The soup looks delicious, I'm bookmarking the page because I'm going to make it...I cannot eat soup without some kind of bread to dip into it, so this is destiny for me!

  27. Marc - My pinnacle of embarrassment. But huge fun...

    Kris - Destiny brought you to my kitchen! You're welcome here anytime, there's always good food on the table, a glass of wine and relaxed conversation. Ciao

  28. OMG!!! Now that would have been fun to be at with you...or would it have been painful for me to watch? Maybe not if I had the same amount of bubbly. Bellissimo quest'aneddoto. Dri

  29. Just stopped over from Eddie Bluelight's. Congrats on your Sunday Roast.

    This is a fabulous post. Thanks for sharing.


  30. I think you and I may have a few things in common!