Ripe tomatoes beg to be consumed immediately, but life may dictate otherwise. That’s when I turn to an Italian dish that creates something satisfying from just a few added ingredients. I could go the panzanella route, but this slurpy stew is less acidic than that salad and offers the added comfort of a warming bowl.
Lately, the heirloom specimens I’ve rescued from the garden or plucked from a bin of “uglies” are what I have been carving up for this recipe. My stash of bread tends to be not stale, as in a traditional Tuscan preparation, so I either toast the torn chunks in the oven to dry them out a bit (which adds texture and flavor) or I toss them, just-defrosted, straight into the pot of garlic-infused broth.
After you have tasted the stew for seasoning — keeping in mind that Parm will be passed at the table — wait to stir in your fresh basil until the last minute. That way, its perfume will waft up from each serving.
RECIPE NOTE: If you have an extra 10 minutes, you can toast chunks of fresh bread in the oven at 375 degrees, until dried out and lightly golden, which adds depth to the dish.
9 ounces day-old country-style bread (crusts are okay)
3 cloves garlic
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, preferably varying in size and color
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 quart low-sodium or no-salt-added vegetable broth (may substitute chicken broth)
5/8 ounce fresh basil leaves (1/2 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
One 2-ounce block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
Tear or cut the bread into bite-size chunks, to yield 5 packed cups. Mince the garlic. Hull the tomatoes (as needed), then cut them into chunks that vary in size, reserving as much of their juices as you can.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the garlic; cook for 30 to 45 seconds or until fragrant and just turning golden.
Add the tomatoes, their juices and the broth; increase the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or just until the tomatoes begin to break down.
Reduce the heat to medium-low; stir the bread pieces into the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the bread starts to disintegrate a bit. Turn off the heat.
Tear the basil leaves. Stir in half of them, until the stew is fragrant.
Taste, and season generously with the pepper and some salt, keeping in mind that you’re adding a salty cheese. Divide among bowls; use a vegetable peeler to shave some of the Parm directly over each bowl.
Drizzle each portion with oil, scatter the remaining basil on top and serve right away.
Adapted from a Nora Pouillon recipe in “One Pot Recipes,” by Ellen Brown (Sterling Epicure, 2018).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to email@example.com.
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The nutritional analysis is based on 6 servings.
Calories: 210; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 410 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 5 g.