Zuni Cafe Pappa al Pomodoro
“Tomato 'Pap' is a friendly staple of Tuscan Cookery,” writes Rodgers. “It
is a good, easy dish to make when you have too many ripe tomatoes, a half loaf of
yesterday's bread, and not much else.”
- About 2 pounds very ripe tomatoes
- About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onions
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 leafy branch fresh basil
- Sugar (optional)
- 1/4 pound day-old, chewy, peasant-style bread, most crust removed
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Core the tomatoes and trim of blemishes or under-ripe shoulders. Blanch
or blister over an open flame, and peel about half of them. Leave the skins
on the remainder. (Aside from giving the pappa more flavor, the skins give this
version its distinctive texture.) Coarsely chop the tomatoes into 1/4-inch bits,
taking care to capture all the juices. Collect the tomatoes and juice in a bowl.
- Warm about 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan or 3-quart sauté
pan over low heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stirring a few times,
cook over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes while the onions soften and sweat
in their juices; they will become translucent and sweeter. Once they are tender,
stir in the garlic. Cook for a few minutes longer, then add the tomatoes, juice
and seeds and another healthy splash of oil. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer.
- Pick the leaves from the basil and set them aside, then push the stem into
the sauce. Cook only long enough for the bits of tomato to collapse and release
their skins, another 5 to 10 minutes. Watch the color of the sauce, and stop
the cooking just as it takes on the characteristic orange hue of cooked tomatoes.
Taste for salt and for sweetness. If you find the sauce too acidic, add a pinch
of sugar, but reserve final judgment until after you add the bread. You should
have about 4 cups of sauce.
- Remove the basil stem. Tear the basil leaves and add to the sauce. Tear
the bread into fistsful. Bring the sauce to a boil, add the bread, and stir
just until it is saturated and submerged. Cover the pan with a tightly fitting
lid, remove from the heat, and place in a very warm spot, or place over barely
simmering water. Leave the bread to swell and soften for 15 minutes or so.
- When you are ready to serve the pappa, give it a vigorous stir to break
up the chunks of softened bread, taste again, and adjust for salt and sweetness.
- Stir in a few more spoonsful olive oil to enrich the pappa and enhance its
perfume. But don't over-stir the pappa once you've added the bread,
lest you sacrifice its delightful lightness and pleasantly lumpy, irregular
- Offer cracked black pepper and extra-virgin olive oil with the pappa.
Source: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers - Zuni Cafe, San Francisco,
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