The River Café’s Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian bread and tomato soup)
A perfect summer soup from the late Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers of The River Café, the hugely influential restaurant that has changed the way we think about Italian food and nurtured a number of celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This comes from their latest book The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook
Ruth and Rose say: This simple and inexpensive soup is full of flavour and is perfect for using up stale bread crusts
(assuming you use good bread - a rustic pain de campagne or sourdough is ideal but you could use a ciabatta. You also need ripe tomatoes and fresh basil which is why you have to make it at this time of year (from July to September)
For 8 (though you can easily halve it for 4)
2 kg very ripe tomatoes, peeled* and de-seeded
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g stale bread, crusts removed, broken into pieces*
A large bunch of basil, with the leaves picked off and torn into pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Roughly chop a quarter of the tomatoes and set aside. place the rest in a food processor and blend until completely smooth and thick (you might have to do this in two batches). Season well with salt and pepper. Put the blended mixture in a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the stale bread and stir until the bread absorbs the liquid and becomes soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and the basil leaves, stirring well. Check the seasoning again and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
* an easy way to peel tomatoes is to make a small nick in the skin just by the stem, put them into a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave them 30 seconds then drain off the water and cover them with cold water. The skins should come away easily.