Serves 3 to 4
I'm sorry I didn't post this recipe in August. I don't have an excuse - at least not an excuse that's worth it. I've just been so busy at work. Actually, I've been extraordinarily busy since April. I only had one day off all summer and didn't get to the beach once. I'm hoping to take a week off in October, which is, after all, my favorite month of the year. But this recipe is, well, so good, you should be mad I didn't get it here sooner.
Simple it may be, but its deliciousness depends on wonderful ingredients. The best tomatoes of the year. Tomatoes bursting with flavor. Tomatoes so good you want to eat them out of hand (but hang on; be patient; use them for this). Your favorite extra-virgin olive oil. And Maldon - always Maldon - sea salt. (Yes, I know, fleur de sel is lovely, but Maldon eclipses all other salt for me.)
The credit for this dish goes to Luisa, The Wednesday Chef. I don't think she will mind my passing it on to you. This is a recipe that is so stunningly simple, you cannot believe how wonderful it is. Don't just take my word for it. See what Luisa has to say about it. If it really serves three to four, instead of just two, I'll be surprised. If you start tasting it in the pan, you won't even have enough to plate for more than two. It's so good, it's hard to stop eating once you start. Luisa actually advises to
buy twice the amount of tomatoes required. Because when you're standing in front of your stove looking down at an empty soup pot, wondering what could have possessed you to be so generous as to share your meal with the people at your table, you'll feel some relief at the prospect of being able to whip up another batch, right then and there.For some reason, the sourdough bread adds a lot to this recipe, which is odd because in Tuscany, where this recipe hails from, the bread would be completely different, with no salt added. Trust me on this; use the sourdough. And note, you use ricotta salata, not fresh ricotta, for this dish. If you want to use tomatoes and fresh ricotta, check this recipe out. It's also from Luisa, and just fabulous. When it comes to pasta, she might just be the man - so the speak.
Anyway, I thought fall was arriving early last week, when the first crisp air greeted me as I walked out the door. But the weekend was sunny and hot (and humid), so you may still be able to get your hands on August-like tomatoes. If you can, make this immediately, then tuck this recipe away to pull out next year when tomatoes and basil are prolific in the garden again. It will be something to dream about in March when winter seems so long and summer so far away.
3 pounds perfectly ripe, beautiful summer in-season, ripened-on-the-vine tomatoes, plum or round - do not use cherry or grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the back of your chef knife
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sourdough bread, without crusts, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
Core and quarter the tomatoes then pulse in a food processor to chop coarsely. Do not puree. If you don't have a food processor or are not inclined to get it out or get it dirty, you can coarsely chop the tomatoes by hand, but a food processor does work well here.
Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan or 5-quart saucier. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Season with salt, bring to a slow simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
At the end of the 45 minutes, stir the bread cubes into the soup, and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Check the seasoning. Add a little pepper just before serving.
Serve hot or at room temperature, with grated ricotta salata and minced basil strewn on each serving.