Pappa al Pomodoro

Waste not, want not is a Tuscan credo. Many Florentine recipes make use of leftover ingredients. Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick, hearty soup made with dry bread, is one of the city’s classic dishes.

Ingredients:

4–8 cloves of garlic, according to taste
1 12-ounce can of plum tomatoes
1 pound of dry, stale (preferably unsalted Tuscan) bread, broken into smallish pieces
4–6 cups of water or warmed vegetable broth
1 bunch (20 leaves) of basil, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Half teaspoon of crushed and dried chili pepper (optional)
1 leek (white flesh only), finely chopped (optional)

Directions:

Place the bread in a bowl and add water or broth. Cover and put aside for at least an hour. Sauté the garlic (and leek, if desired) with oil. Add dried chili pepper if desired, then the tomatoes, half the basil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Squeeze excess broth from the soaked bread and add to the oil and tomatoes. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with remaining basil and a swirl of olive oil.

Servings: Serves four

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

“Steak, Florentine style,” is offered in most of the city’s restaurants. Traditionally, a T-bone from local Chianina beef cattle is preferred, but an ordinary T-bone (or porterhouse) can also be used.

Ingredients:

2-pound T-bone steak, three fingers thick
Sea salt (coarse)

Directions:

Florentines grill the meat over a very hot wood or coal grill, but it can also be cooked on a hot skillet or griddle.

Grill the steak, without seasoning, for three to five minutes. Florentines often also grill the steak standing up on the bone for a few minutes at the end to cook around the T-bone.

The meat should be seared and crispy on the outside, cooked to a shallow depth inside, and red, almost raw at its heart. Allow to rest for ten minutes then cut the meat off the bone into large chunks, season with coarse sea salt, and serve.

Servings: Serves two to four

Ribollita

Ribollita means “reboiled,” because to make this rich, thick vegetable soup correctly it must be cooked and recooked. The most widespread of any Tuscan soup, Ribollita appears with many variations, but the key ingredient is cavolo nero (Tuscan winter black cabbage), though kale, chard, or green and Savoy cabbage can also be used. Add zucchini, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and other vegetables according to taste.

Ingredients:

1 chopped onion
1–2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 leek (white flesh) finely chopped
1–3 chopped carrots
2–3 fresh or canned peeled plum tomatoes
1–2 cups of Tuscan white cannellini beans
1 quarter of cavolo nero or equivalent
1 bunch of Swiss chard and/or spinach
1 finely chopped celery stalk and leaves
4 chopped zucchini (courgettes)
2–4 peeled and cubed potatoes (optional)
1 pound stale Italian bread (optional)
4 tablespoons of tomato paste/purée
Salt and pepper
Water
Olive oil
Oregano, rosemary, and hot chili pepper as desired (optional)

Directions:

Sauté the onion, leek, and garlic in a large casserole dish. Add carrots, celery, chili, and cook for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, beans, more oil, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes. Add water to cover ingredients and cook gently for 90 minutes, adding water as necessary, plus tomato paste, zucchini, potatoes, or other vegetables. Alternatively, add these the next day before the soup is reheated. Leave to stand in a cool kitchen for a day and/or chill overnight.

To make the soup thicker, purée half the mixture. Reheat, ladling the soup over a slice of toasted dry bread to serve (optional). Add a swirl of olive oil to each serving.

A more traditional, but time-consuming version, involves layering the finished soup with the dried bread in a baking tray, baking the mixture, then reheating in a casserole dish, breaking up the bread if required.

Servings: Serves four

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