Who doesn’t love a ripe tomato? Unfortunately those that you buy in a supermarket, with some exceptions, are just NOT nice AT ALL. This recipe should ONLY be made with the ripest of tomatoes. And in this case, not even tinned tomatoes will do.
Tomato and Bread Soup
Handful of fresh basil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled
25g Parmesan with rind
3 slices thick day-old or stale country-style bread with crusts, torn into 1-inch pieces
75ml olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt, freshly ground pepper
1.5kg ripe tomatoes, cut into large pieces
Pluck basil leaves from stems. Place stems and any larger or not-so-beautiful leaves in a large saucepan along with 2 or 3 larger garlic cloves; cover with 3 cups water. Set aside remaining smaller, prettier basil leaves. Cut Parmesan away from rind and add rind to pan; set cheese aside. Bring liquid to a bare simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat so mixture is steaming. Let ingredients steep while you start the soup. This step may seem like a lot of faff. But is totally worth it.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Spread out 1 cup bread on a small rimmed baking sheet, drizzle lightly with oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Toast until edges are crisp but centres are still chewy, 8–10 minutes; set croutons aside.
Meanwhile, slice remaining garlic cloves. Heat ⅓ cup oil in a medium pot over medium and cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until evenly golden brown and softened, about 2 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes to pot and cook, stirring energetically with a wooden spoon now and then, until tomato juices are bubbling, 6–8 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, then add remaining 3 cups bread.
Stir to coat, then strain basil stock into tomato mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, until bread disintegrates into a porridgelike texture and soup is velvety and thick, 10–12 minutes. (The whisk helps break the bread into smaller pieces; if you like your soup rustic, stick with the spoon. If you want it to be very smooth, use an immersion blender.)
Finely grate reserved Parmesan and whisk half into soup along with reserved basil. Cook, stirring, until soup is thickened and looks shiny, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
Divide soup among bowls and top with reserved croutons, remaining Parmesan, and a drizzle of oil. Divine!