There are two things we have in spades right now – ripe tomatoes and sourdough bread. Inevitably, this time of year the variations on tomato soups and sauces coming out of the kitchen are many. The other night, I made this. Walking into the kitchen, I imagined building on the idea behind pappa al pomodoro, the tomato-centric, bread-thickened Tuscan classic. We ended up sitting down to a spicy, saffron-smacked stew with a tomato and sourdough foundation dotted with chickpeas. It was a big hit, so I made it again the next day so I could shoot and share it here. If there’s a place where summer eating meets comfort food, this is it.
Let’s talk details. Your choice in tomatoes here is key. It’s the flavor base of this soup. Go for the most flavorful, ripe, in-season tomatoes you can get your hands on. Ugly or not-perfect is fine, they’re going to get roasted and blitzed anyway. I save my cherry tomatoes for other uses – salads, roasting, pastas, etc. and opt for medium-sized varietals like Early Girl or San Marzano instead.
Roasting For Flavor
Here’s roughly what your tomatoes, onions, and garlic should look like after roasting (below). I put the onions and garlic on their own baking sheet in case they cook faster. It makes it easier for you to remove them early if needed. You can certainly do a version of this soup without roasting, but the depth of flavor you get from this extra step is worth it.
The Bread Component
Our “house” sourdough bread is ~60 % whole wheat / rye flour blend, plus a good amount of cooked quinoa. It’s quite hearty and wholesome, and it’s great here. I use heartier whole-grain sourdoughs in soups like this one, or bread-thickened ribollita all the time. I think people worry that they need to use a white loaf (like a ciabatta or “Italian” bread), but you can totally experiment. It might not be typical, but it can be tasty (and more nutritious).
I was craving something invigoratingly spicy when I threw this together the other night. I was after a straight, direct shot of tomato & spice. That’s why you see a good dose of cayenne in the recipe. I added a bit of saffron because tomatoes and saffron are one of my favorite flavor combinations. That said, there are (of course) endless other directions you could explore! For example:
- A more classic flavor profile: dial back the spices, turn up the basil.
- Add a dollop of harissa instead of cayenne.
- Use yellow tomatoes + lots of black pepper & experiment with a turmeric-chive-garlic drizzle of some sort.
- Use some of your corn by adding it with the chickpeas. And for the experimenting bread bakers out there – how about a sourdough with a percentage of cornmeal, whole corn, etc in the bread slot? I’d use something other than a quick bread style cornbread (not enough structure when it hits the soup).
It’s wild how in my garden there will be a blast of tomatoes for a few weeks and then it’s over in a flash. If you’re looking for other ways to put a dent in your tomato supply right now – some ideas. Try to make the most of them while they’re here. Try a fresh version of this tomato sauce. Use them in a tomato tart. Make this favorite salsa. Or load them into a coleslaw. xx – h
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