This is one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Franny's: Simple Seasonal Italian. While the restaurant will sadly shutter in just a weeks time, you can always bring a little of the magic of Franny's Calabrian cuisine into your kitchen with their wonderful book. I was initially drawn to this recipe because it makes use of things you might think to throw away, calling for overripe tomatoes, a hunk of stale bread, and a cheese rind or two.
The way these kitchen scraps transform together in a pot on the stove is honestly bewildering. Old bread becomes plump and near dumpling like in the tomato's beautiful broth. The cheese rinds impart an almost umami like savoriness, which plays brilliantly with the tomatoes naturally bright acidity. It's difficult for me to think of a more comforting dish, one so soothing and simple but still so packed with overwhelming amounts of flavor. We had a bit of a cold snap back in June, so I jumped at the opportunity to make this, but it works as brilliantly in September when it's finally safe to open up the apartment windows and reach for a sweater.
Franny's Tomato Bread Soup
In simple, pure-tasting recipes such as this one, the quality of the ingredients becomes all the more important. Make this with dead-ripe tomatoes, and you'll be rewarded with a memorable, intense soup. You'll also need sliced of good artisans bread, which expand in the liquid like a sponge and give the soup a lovely body.
Besides ripe tomatoes and good bread, the soup has a secret weapon: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds. The rinds impart a dense and savory backbone to the soup. Finished with a kick of cracked black pepper, the soup will have you looking forward to tomato season every year.
- 4 pounds ripe tomatoes
- 2 medium white onions
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups of water
- 3/4 cup basil leaves, plus torn leaves for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- 6 oz of Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, scraped
- 8 oz day old pagnotta or other country style bread
- finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- freshly cracked pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a pairing knife, score the bottom of each tomato with a small X. Blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds. Remove from the pot and let cool until you can handle them comfortably, then peel off the skins with your fingers or a pairing knife. Coarsely chop the tomatoes.
2. Slice the onions inhale through the root, then thinly slice each half crosswise. (You should have about 3 cups)
3. In a Dutch oven or a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the inions and garlic and cook, stirring to prevent browning, until soft and translucent, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, water, basil leaves, and salt. Tie the cheese rinds in a square of cheesecloth and drop into the pot. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat, 45 minutes.
4. Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and stir them into the soup. Cover the pot again and continue simmering for 20 minutes longer. Remove and discard the cheese rinds. Add salt to taste if necessary.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Finish each serving with grated cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, cracked black pepper, and a sprinkling of torn basil leaves.