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Jun 18, 2022

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)

With only a few simple ingredients, you can make Pappa al Pomodoro, a delicious and fresh tasting Tuscan tomato and bread soup. 

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup) in a bowl with a side of cheese.

Pappa al pomodoro is a hearty tomato and bread soup with roots in the Tuscan region of Italy. It's traditionally made with stale bread, and is a close cousin to panzanella salad, which is also made with tomatoes and stale bread and has roots in Tuscany. 

This soup is delicious hot, at room temperature, or chilled, so it's perfect for any season. Even with its simple ingredients, it's so flavorful! 

Pappa al pomodoro actually means "tomato mush" or "tomato baby food" in Italian according to Google Translate! 

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup) in bowls.

Ingredients in Pappa al Pomodoro:

Tomatoes - For this soup, I used canned San Marzano style tomatoes with added basil leaves. Feel free to use any canned whole tomatoes. You could also use fresh peeled tomatoes, but use them only if they are super fresh and in season. 

Onion - Softened onion adds a base of flavor to the soup. 

Garlic - Add the garlic to the onion after the onion has softened. 

Seasoning - Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. 

Broth - You can use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, or a combination. I used a combination of chicken and vegetable broth, because it's what I had on hand. 

Basil - Use lots of fresh basil for preparing the soup. You can also use it for garnish when serving. We have a hearty basil plant that just keeps thriving and producing, so I used lots of it.

Olive oil - Use it to cook the onion and garlic as well as for finishing the soup. Some versions of this soup use a ton of olive oil. This version is pretty light on the oil. 

Bread - Use stale crusty Italian or French bread. You cut off the crusts and cut the bread into cubes before stirring it into the soup. 

Baguette sections.

I used some leftover baguettes that I had in the freezer. 

Originally in Tuscany, this soup was (and may still be) made with Tuscan bread, which does not contain salt. Without the preservative nature of salt, the bread stales more quickly, which is why recipes for using stale bread were likely developed in the region. 

You probably won't be able to find Tuscan bread (bread without salt is pretty tasteless unless you top it with lots of salty ingredients), so any crusty lean bread will work just fine. 

If you like, you could add some grated carrot and thinly sliced celery to the onions as you are frying to create a mirepoix. I wanted to keep it simple and limited to ingredients you probably already have on hand. 

The trick to incorporate the bread into the soup is to whisk it briskly with a wire whisk after letting the stale bread sit in the simmering soup for 15 minutes. Wear an apron while you do this or you will possibly need to change your shirt! 

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup) in a pot with a whisk.

Recipe Variations:

Besides adding carrot and celery, or using fresh tomatoes, you can use less broth to make the soup thicker. This version is about as thick as stewed tomatoes, but there are much thicker versions. 

You could also use fresh crusty bread, or even sandwich bread. It will soften more quickly and absorb more readily into the soup. The soup will be just as tasty but with fewer "lumps" of tomato soaked bread. 

If you're in a pinch and can't find fresh basil, the Gourmet Garden basil in a tub or squeeze bottle will work. Just don't tell the Italian food police. 

Speaking of the Italian food police, I understand that you are not to make this soup with cheese. I didn't incorporate any cheese when making this soup, but I did season the soup once I served it with some grated Parmesan cheese. Does that mean I've broken a Tuscan tomato soup rule or is seasoning with Parmesan okay? 

Either way, it was delicious. 

More Great Tomato Soups:

Cream of Tomato Soup

Simple Tomato Soup

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup) topped with cheese.

This month, the Soup Saturday Swappers challenge was to make soups with leftovers. Because I make a lot of bread, I always have some extra sitting in my freezer. 

I've been meaning to try this soup for quite a while, so the timing was perfect. Thanks to Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm for hosting. 

Check out everyone's recipes:

Pappa al Pomodoro in a bowl.

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)
Yield: 6 servings
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 45 MinTotal time: 1 H & 15 M
With only a few simple ingredients, you can make Pappa al Pomodoro, a delicious and fresh tasting Tuscan tomato and bread soup.


  • 6 ounces crusty bread, cut into cubes with the crusts removed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 2 (28 ounce each) cans whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat your oven to 225 degrees. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, tossing halfway through, and bake for about 40 minutes, until crispy. You can prepare the bread cubes the day before or while the soup is cooking.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or 6 quart sauce pan. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring a couple of times, until the onion has softened, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the broth and the chopped tomatoes and bring the mixture just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the bread cubes, cover the pot, and cook the soup on low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the cover, and whisk the soup very vigorously until the bread breaks apart and the soup has thickened. Stir in the fresh basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, extra basil, and freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

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tomatoes, bread
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This recipe was adapted from various sources, but mostly from Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey, and The Silver Spoon: Traditional Italian Home Cooking Recipes

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