white bowl of pappa al pomodoro on a wooden table.
Home » Italian Recipes » Pappa al Pomodoro Recipe – Tuscan Tomato Soup (with Bread)

Pappa al Pomodoro Recipe – Tuscan Tomato Soup (with Bread)

Last updated on April 4th, 2024

If you fell in love with pappa al pomodoro after trying it on your travels to Tuscany, you’ve probably been dreaming about it ever since. I certainly was for years until I learned that this Tuscan tomato and bread soup is actually a snap to make at home. It’s also very cheap and vegan!

If you haven’t yet had the chance to try pappa al pomordoro, then you’re in for a treat. This is a very easy recipe to make and it’s perfect for hot summer days.

This pappa al pomodoro recipe is a classic and it’s untouched from when it was first developed in Tuscany hundreds of years ago. My husband’s mother first showed me how to make this all’occhio (by eyeballing it). 

After many trials and some research, I have this excellent replica of her all’occhio version of pappa al pomodoro. 

Along with my family recipe, I’ve included some history on the dish and how Italians actually eat pappa al pomodoro at home. 

Onion, carrot, and celery on a wooden cutting board.

Pappa al Pomodoro Pronunciation

Pappa al pomodoro is pronounced pahp-pah ahl poh-moh-DOH-roh in Italian.

Listen to the pronunciation of pappa al pomodoro:

What is Pappa al Pomodoro?  

Slices of Tuscan bread on a wooden cutting board.

Pappa al pomodoro is an ancient Tuscan soup made from tomatoes and stale bread born out of the cucina povera – the poor man’s cooking, the idea of preparing good, hearty and cheap food with local ingredients. 

Good to Know: Pappa al pomodoro is by nature a vegan recipe.

This recipe is one of Tuscany’s oldest recipes, although somewhat unclear what it used to be before the arrival of the tomato in the 16th century after the discovery of America. 

It was most likely a bread soup made from water or broth flavored with any seasonal vegetables or what was to be found in the poorest of times during the Middle Ages, and stale bread.

This recipe was a natural development as a way to use up extra bread. When food was scarce and people were hungry, not a crumb of bread went to waste. 

Now pappa al pomodoro is actually not really a soup – it’s not thin and you can’t really slurp it (but you do eat it with a spoon). It more like a thick bread stew or baby food (pappa in Italian is actually the word used colloquially for baby food or food given to children). 

vine ripe tomatoes stacked high outside at a market for sale in italy

This dish is best during the summer when ripe tomatoes are abundant but you can also make it with pureed tomatoes during the off season. Whatever it may be, the method is the same: tomatoes are stewed with carrots, onion, celery, garlic, a pinch of red pepper flake and plenty of extra virgin olive oil to which stale bread is added. It is gently simmered until the bread has fallen apart and the whole pot could best be described as a mush.

Most traditionally, this recipe is made with Tuscan bread, characterized by no salt, but I actually think it’s better when made with a good bread like a ciabatta. The bread should be crusty on the outside and soft on the inside when fresh (but used stale here).

Fact: Tuscan bread is made without salt because back in the 1500s there was a tax put on salt as an extra measure to be sure the locals were paying their taxes and not trying to get around them. In the end, the Tuscans just decided not to use salt in many dishes, including their bread making and today, the bread is just the same!

Read more about Traditional Tuscan Food.

More Veg Please: Check out my list of Vegetarian Dishes to Try in Italy.

How We Eat Pappa al Pomodoro in Tuscany

Close up of bowl of Tuscan bread and tomato soup (pappa al pomodoro).

This dish is usually eaten in the summer because the tomatoes are at their best and secondly, because it’s wonderful just warmed or even room temperature.

This can be made either the day beforehand or early in the morning before it starts to really heat up and then enjoyed at lunch. 

Pappa al pomodoro should be served in a shallow bowl and eaten with a spoon. Drizzle with plenty of extra virgin olive oil and leave it on the table in case anyone would like to add even more. 

Ingredients for Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup)

Close up of Italian soffrito ingredients - carrots, onions, and celery, all chopped.

serves 4 people. prep time 20 min. cook time 1 hour. Rest time 1 hour

  • 8.8 oz (250 g) stale bread such as ciabatta (or if you are in Tuscany, Tuscan bread)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
  • ½ carrot
  • ½ stalk of celery
  • ½ medium onion or 1 small
  • 1-28 ounce can (800 g) tomato puree* or 18 oz fresh tomatoes
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves

*If you are not in Italy this may be hard to find. Just get canned peeled tomatoes and puree them either with a blender, food processor or immersion blender. 

Step-By-Step Instructions for Pappa al Pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro ingredients (bread, tomato puree) seen in a metal pot from above.
  1. Slice the bread and soak it in cold water for 5 minutes or so. Squeeze out all the excess liquid and crumble the bread. Set aside. 
  2. If you are using fresh tomatoes you will need to peel them by scoring them (meaning putting a small, shallow slit with a sharp knife on the bottom of the tomato) and putting them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and you will see how the skins just slide off (if you want to speed up this process you can cool them quickly in an ice bath). Transfer the peeled tomatoes to a bowl and crush them with your hands.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot, preferably with a heavy bottom, over medium-low heat.
  4. Peel the garlic clove and crush it with the back of your knife to release its juices and aroma. Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion. Add the battuto of chopped carrot, celery, onion and a pinch of red chili flakes and gently cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for about twenty minutes. Remove the garlic cloves
  6. Add the crumbled bread to the tomato mixture and stir, being sure all the bread is coated well. Add about a cup of hot water and continue to cook for 10-20 minutes, stirring every so often to be sure the bread is not sticking to the bottom and that it is breaking down well (help it along by probing it with your wooden spoon and eventually using a whisk to help the whole mixture become one creamy mess).
  7. Taste for salt and pepper. Add if need be.
  8. Turn off the heat, tear up the basil leaves with your hands and stir them in.
  9. Let sit for at least an hour. 
  10. Ladle into bowls, generously drizzle plenty of extra virgin olive oil and tear a few more basil leaves for good measure. Serve warm or at room temperature

Fact: The mixture of finely chopped cooked onion, carrot and celery is called a soffritto in Italian. Read more about soffritto and get our recipe here.

What to Serve With Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup

side view of several pecorino cheese forms stacked with top cheeses cut open

Because this doesn’t have any protein in it, I like to serve a green salad and pecorino cheese alongside. My family loves cheese and pecorino is THE cheese in Tuscany so that is what I use but you could really serve any kind of cheese or cured meats to bulk up the meal. 

A simple green salad with olive oil and vinegar or lemon vinaigrette is perfect for clearing your pallet. 

Hand holding white bowl of pappa al pomodoro over a wooden table.

Pappa al Pomodoro Notes and Tips

  • Be sure to use the best extra virgin olive oil you have to finish the soup. For the cooking, you can use a lesser quality but ideally, you want to be using really good oil if it’s accessible.
  • Plenty of olive oil is the secret to this recipe. Don’t skimp – it may seem like a lot but you need it for taste really flavor.  
  • It can stick to the bottom after you add the bread so stir it often.
  • Be careful not to burn the garlic, carrots, celery and onion. Keep the flame low and stir frequently.
  • Authentic pappa al pomodoro does not call for chopped fresh tomatoes or roasted cherry tomatoes as a garnish on top. 
  • Whisk the bread into the tomato mixture with a whisk to create a creamy texture.
  • The soup should be hearty and thick. If you accidentally added too much water or the fresh tomatoes you used were extra juicy, just throw in an extra slice of bread to soak up the liquid and thicken it up. 
  • If the soup is too thick, going in the direction of a hummus, then add a bit of water to thin it out. 

More Italian Soups: If you love Italian soups, consider making:
Pappa al Pomodoro
Ribollita
Italian Minestrone
Creamy Italian Kale Soup
Italian Greens and Beans
Italian Lentil Soup

white bowl of pappa al pomodoro on a wooden table.

Pappa al Pomodoro Recipe – Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup

Pappa al pomodoro is an ancient Tuscan soup made from tomatoes and stale bread born out of the cucina povera – the poor man’s cooking, the idea of preparing good, hearty and cheap food with local ingredients.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 8.8 oz stale bread such as ciabatta (or if you're in Tuscany, Tuscan bread) (250 g)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1/2 stalk of celery
  • ½ medium onion, or 1 small
  • 1 28-oz can tomato puree* (800 g) or 18 oz fresh tomatoes
  • 1 large clove garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 15-20 basil leaves

Instructions
 

  • Slice the bread and soak it in cold water for 5 minutes or so. Squeeze out all the excess liquid and crumble the bread. Set aside.
  • If you are using fresh tomatoes you will need to peel them by scoring them (meaning putting a small, shallow slit with a sharp knife on the bottom of the tomato) and putting them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and you will see how the skins just slide off (if you want to speed up this process you can cool them quickly in an ice bath). Transfer the peeled tomatoes to a bowl and crush them with your hands.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot, preferably with a heavy bottom, over medium-low heat.
  • Peel the garlic clove and crush it with the back of your knife to release its juices and aroma. Peel the garlic clove and crush it with the back of your knife to release its juices and aroma. Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion. Add the chopped carrot, celery, onion and a pinch of red chili flakes and gently cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for about twenty minutes. Remove the garlic cloves
  • Add the crumbled bread to the tomato mixture and stir, being sure all the bread is coated well. Add about a cup of hot water and continue to cook for 10-20 minutes, stirring every so often to be sure the bread is not sticking to the bottom and that it is breaking down well (help it along by probing it with your wooden spoon and eventually using a whisk to help the whole mixture become one creamy mess).
  • Taste for salt and pepper. Add if need be.
  • Turn off the heat, tear up the basil leaves with your hands and stir them in.
  • Let sit for at least an hour.
  • Ladle into bowls, generously drizzle plenty of extra virgin olive oil and tear a few more basil leaves for good measure. Serve warm or at room temperature

Notes

*If you are not in Italy this may be hard to find. Just get canned peeled tomatoes and puree them either with a blender, food processor or immersion blender. 
Notes and Tips:
  • Be sure to use the best extra virgin olive oil you have to finish the soup. For the cooking, you can use a lesser quality but ideally, you want to be using really good oil if it’s accessible.
  • Plenty of olive oil is the secret to this recipe. Don’t skimp – it may seem like a lot but you need it for taste really flavor.  
  • It can stick to the bottom after you add the bread so stir it often.
  • Be careful not to burn the garlic, carrots, celery and onion. Keep the flame low and stir frequently.
  • Authentic pappa al pomodoro does not call for chopped fresh tomatoes or roasted cherry tomatoes as a garnish on top. 
  • Whisk the bread into the tomato mixture with a whisk to create a creamy texture.
  • The soup should be hearty and thick. If you accidentally added too much water or the fresh tomatoes you used were extra juicy, just throw in an extra slice of bread to soak up the liquid and thicken it up. 
  • If the soup is too thick, going in the direction of a hummus, then add a bit of water to thin it out. 
Keyword authentic, Tuscan, vegan
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Pappa al Pomodoro FAQ

Can I freeze pappa al pomodoro?

This is not the best dish to freeze. Keep it in the fridge for 4 days but if you haven’t eaten it by then, compost it.

Can I use fresh tomatoes that I have frozen for pappa al pomdoro?

Yes, as long as you remove the skins. 

Can I use whole wheat bread or bread with seeds?

You can absolutely use whole wheat bread but the flavor profile will change a bit. I personally would avoid using bread with seeds as they won’t break down like the rest of the ingredients in the soup. 

Where is the best pappa al pomodoro in Italy?

The best place to eat it is in Florence. I have had it numerous times in various trattorie and it’s always very good. Note that it may not always be on the menu as many of these restaurants change what they are serving based on the season. These are some of my favorites:
Trattoria Pandemonio
Trattoria Sergio Gozzi
Trattoria del Carmine
Buca dell’Orafo (a bit more expensive)

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