Recipe from Bottega by Michael Chiarello/Chronicle Books, 2010.
This soup is the definition of Tuscan food, made from great tomatoes that aren’t cooked too long, mixed with old bread, and milled for texture. It’s very Tuscan; you won’t find versions like this in Southern Italy. I like the combination of fresh Roma and canned plum tomatoes, but you can use all fresh if you like; just aim for about 6 1/2 pounds of tomatoes. If you don’t have a food mill, by all means use your food processor, but for a true pappa al pomodoro a mill is key. This soup is all about the texture: the word velvety comes to mind, not because this soup is smooth but because the combination of good tomatoes and stale bread has a mouthfeel that’s rich and satisfying. It’s the most rustic food and yet it doesn’t feel simple or rustic in your mouth.
Good tomatoes are like gold at Bottega, and we don’t waste a bit of them. When you core the tomatoes, take out as little flesh as possible. Then, cut a shallow X in the opposite end of the tomato and when it goes into the hot water, the skin will curl into four little corners, making it easier to peel.