Never throw away stale bread again! Turn that leftover half-loaf into Pappa al Pomodoro, a simple Italian bread soup made with canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, and a few easy aromatics. This vegan soup recipe is comforting, flavorful, and ready in 30 minutes! 

Two bowls of pappa al pomodoro garnished with pieces of ciabatta bread and basil next to two spoons, a blue towel and a bowl of olive oil.
Photo Credits: Mariam Hamdy

Italians have a knack for turning a handful of pantry basics into an effortless and comforting dinner that’s worth passing down for generations. From Spaghetti Aglio e Olio to Stracciatella Soup, you can count the ingredients for many of their most iconic dishes on just one hand. And Pappa al Pomodoro is the prime example of dinner done nonna-style: a short list of flavor-makers, all of the comfort, and none of the fuss!

Like Torrijas De Leche (Spanish French Toast), Gazpacho or Panzanella, this Pappa al Pomodoro recipe is yet another way to make sure food doesn't go to waste, but toasted fresh bread works well too. 

The crispy bread simmers in a tomato broth infused with garlic, onions, and fresh basil. As it melts and soaks up the flavor, it becomes silky-smooth and almost custard-like. What’s best: you can serve it hot, cold, room temperature, the next day–you really can’t go wrong.

Table of Contents
  1. Pappa al Pomodoro Ingredients and Substitutions
  2. How to Make Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian Bread Soup)
    1. Get Ready
    2. Cook, Simmer, and Serve
  3. What to Serve with Pappa al Pomodoro
  4. More Ways to Use Leftover Bread!
  5. Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian Bread and Tomato Soup) Recipe
Ingredients for pappa al pomodoro including whole san marzano tomatoes, ciabatta bread, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, basil, vegetable broth, salt and pepper.

Pappa al Pomodoro Ingredients and Substitutions

This Italian bread soup with just a few ingredients is far from fancy, but the quality of each ingredient makes a big difference. Use the best tomatoes and olive oil you can get your hands on! 

  • Extra virgin olive oil is used both to sauté the vegetables and finish the soup, enriching the soup and adding a lovely flavor. Any good extra virgin variety will work well. I used our buttery-smooth Italian Nocellara, which you can find at our shop.
  • Red pepper flakes add a good bit of heat, bringing a layer of complexity to the simple soup. If you’re sensitive to spice, Aleppo pepper is a milder option–read all about it in our guide: What is Aleppo Pepper? If you want to try it for yourself visit our shop.
  • Garlic and yellow onion add sweet and savory depth of flavor. You can substitute with red onion, white onion, or shallot. 
  • San Marzano tomatoes are sweet like honey with a much lower acidity than your standard can of tomatoes, so you don’t need to add any sugar. To ensure they’re the real deal make sure they’re labeled “DOP.” If you’re working with another variety, you can add a pinch of sugar if they’re too tart. 
  • Whole basil sprigs add a strong basil flavor to the soup, and garnishing with the leaves adds an aromatic quality and freshness. The soup is rather hearty so this freshness is essential. I don’t recommend substituting with dried basil.  
  • Use a good quality vegetable broth–one that’s not too sweet or overly salted. Chicken stock or broth also works well.
  • Ciabatta is nicely sweet, tangy, and fluffy, perfect for melting into the soup. Any fluffy rustic bread will work in its place. 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper enhance the flavor.
An overhead photo of pappa al pomodoro in a large pot on a blue towel. Next to this are small bowls of basil, olive oil and pieces of ciabatta bread.

How to Make Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian Bread Soup)

This easy Italian soup is great for late nights, weeknight dinners, and easy lunches alike! This simple pappa al pomodoro recipe takes about 30 to make and really comes in handy when you’re hungry with a near-empty fridge! To make Pappa al Pomodoro: 

Get Ready

  • Prepare the ciabatta. Slice about ½ pound of ciabatta in half lengthwise, then use your hands to pull off and tear the center into small pieces (or you can cut it into 1-inch cubes). If you’re working with very stale bread, skip to the next step. Otherwise, spread onto a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat, then broil on high until golden, about 2 minutes. Keep an eye on things so the bread doesn’t burn. Set aside.Pieces of toasted ciabatta bread on a baking sheet.
  • Warm the broth. Add three cups of broth to a small pot and set over low heat to gently warm. 
  • Prep the vegetables. Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves and finely chop 1 small yellow onion.

Cook, Simmer, and Serve

  • Soften the aromatics. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes and lower the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and onions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is lightly golden (do not let it burn or turn dark brown), 10 to 15 minutes. Chopped onion, sliced garlic and red pepper flakes being sauteed in a large pot.
  • Meanwhile, make large rustic tomato chunks. When the onions are lightly golden, use your hands to dig out the tomatoes from a (28-ounce) can and burst them into large chunks over the pan. Pour in the juices from the can, then add the basil sprigs. Turn the heat to high to bring to a simmer. An overhead photo of a large pot with the sauteed garlic, onions and the whole san marzano tomatoes.
  • Simmer. Set aside a handful of torn bread for garnish. When the soup is simmering, stir in the remaining bread and 2 cups of warm broth. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more broth if needed, until the bread is very soft and you have a thick porridge-like consistency—about 20 to 30 minutes. An overhead photo of pappa al pomodoro in a large pot.
  • Finish and serve. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Remove the basil sprigs, then ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Garnish with chopped basil and torn bread and serve. A close up of one bowl of pappa al pomodoro garnished with pieces of ciabatta bread and basil. Next to this are small bowls of olive oil, basil, and ciabatta bread pieces.

What to Serve with Pappa al Pomodoro

Tuscan bread soup is meant as a humble meal to fill you up–you don’t need sides for a casual weeknight dinner or lunch, but who doesn't love a soup and salad situation? Some of my favorite salads to serve with this pappa al pomodoro recipe are this crunchy Lemon Parmesan Lettuce Salad or Kale Salad with Roasted Pistachios.

You can also make this soup as an effortless dinner party appetizer. Serve in small cups as a first dish, then follow things up savory Italian Baked Chicken Breasts. Don't forget the Negronis, another Italian classic!

For dessert, I like something light and refreshing after such a hearty meal. Baked Pears and Citrus Salad both come to mind.

More Ways to Use Leftover Bread!

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4.91 from 11 votes

Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian Bread and Tomato Soup)

Suzy Karadsheh
A close up of one bowl of pappa al pomodoro garnished with pieces of ciabatta bread and basil.
This vegan soup is the definition of effortless Italian comfort food! Stale or toasted bread, fragrant basil, and juicy-sweet San Marzano tomatoes simmer together until you have a savory custard the whole family will love. Throw together an simple salad while it simmers and you have a weeknight dinner on your table in just about 30 minutes!
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 30 minutes
Total – 40 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 6 to 4
Course:
Entree, Soup

Ingredients
  

  • 6 ounces ciabatta, plus more for garnish (about ½ large loaf)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil, plus chopped basil leaves for garnish
  • 2 to 3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth), warmed
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the ciabatta. Slice the ciabatta in half lengthwise, then use your hands to pull off and tear the center into small pieces (or you can cut it into 1-inch cubes). If you’re working with very dry stale bread, skip to the next step. Otherwise, spread onto a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat, then broil on high until golden, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
  • Sauté the vegetables. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the red pepper flakes and lower the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and onions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is lightly golden (do not let it burn or turn dark brown), 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make large rustic tomato chunks. When the onions are lightly golden, use your hands dig out the tomatoes from the can and burst them into large chunks over the pan. Pour in the juices from the can, then add the basil sprigs. Turn the heat to high to bring to a simmer.
  • Simmer. When the soup is simmering, stir in the bread and 2 cups of broth. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more broth if needed, until the bread is very soft and you have a thick porridge-like consistency—about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Finish and serve. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Remove the basil sprigs, then ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Garnish with chopped basil and torn bread and serve.

Video

Notes

  • If you're working with a rustic loaf of bread with tougher crusts than ciabatta, discard the crust and only use the center. 
  • The bread needs to be rather dry and hard to slowly absorb the broth without falling apart, but if you're working with stale bread feel free to skip the toasting step.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 153.2kcalCarbohydrates: 19.5gProtein: 3.3gFat: 7.3gSaturated Fat: 1.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.8gMonounsaturated Fat: 5.1gSodium: 554.2mgPotassium: 167.7mgFiber: 1.4gSugar: 3.1gVitamin A: 311IUVitamin C: 8.4mgCalcium: 30.2mgIron: 0.8mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This soup is so easy to make and its delicious. I am on my 3rd pot!
    I have used Parmesan bread, Rosemary bread and plain Ciabatta.

    Each bread give a subtle change in taste. My husband always has seconds and he isn’t wild about soups.

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this soup. Unfortunately I could not find fresh basil in any store in my area so I resorted to using a tablespoon of basil paste from a tube. Not sure it added anything approaching fresh basil but the soup turned out delicious regardless.
    Definitely surprised at how much heat that 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes gave it but not overpowering.
    I will definitely be making this again.

  3. 5 stars
    Oh, my goodness! Simply sublime!!! I doubled the recipe to feed a group, used my home-canned San Marzanos from last summer and, yes, even the Rao's Cookbook says to always hand-crush them! lol I've been growing basil indoors this winter, and the plant has taken to near-bolting, so I plucked the leaves, chopped the stems which are super-fragrant, and bundled them in a small square of cheesecloth, and allowed them to simmer in the sauce, while I rough-chopped the leaves. So, so, hearty and delicious!!! My dh had the suggestion of serving like a French onion soup, with broiled sharp cheddar, or gouda, or something over the top of the bowl, because he declared it the most delicious "grilled-cheese-tomato-soup soup" he'd ever had (I didn't serve it cheese, but I think the bread had him leaning that direction! lol). I might have to give it a try. This one is going in the easy-weeknight file!!! SO, SO good!!!