This classic summer dish is very versatile: it can be eaten hot, at room temperature or chilled. It does however rely on ripe, tasty tomatoes.If you find your tomatoes a little lacking in taste, add a cup or two of good organic crushed tomatoes to enrich the flavour. The fresh basil, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil will pick it up! On our cooking courses in Tuscany we only use the best local extra virgin olive oil (from half a mile away!)
- 2 medium onions, chopped very finely
- 3 sticks celery, chopped very finely
- 2 large clove of garlic, one whole, one finely chopped or crushed
- 1.5 kg (just over 3 lb) tasty, ripe tomatoes
- Good extra-virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Small bunch basil, leaves only (at least 25 leaves)
- 750 ml (1.5 pint) vegetable stock, prepared by boiling water with a stock cube, onion, celery and carrot
- 6-10 slices firm (stale, 3 days old is perfect!) Tuscan bread (or firm farmhouse loaf), cut into small pieces
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and turn off the heat. Put the tomatoes into the water and leave for a couple of minutes. Test with a knife tip to see if the skin peels away easily. Discard the water and skin the tomatoes. Chop quite finely.
- Heat a good swirl of olive oil in a large pot. Add the whole clove of garlic, the onions and celery and sauté for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent but not browning.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of salt and some black pepper, and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
- Add the stock and the pieces of bread and cook, covered, for a further 20 minutes on a low flame. Make sure there are no large pieces of bread that have not been turned into mush! Add more stock or hot water if necessary (the consistency should be mushy but not too liquid - just about possible to eat with a fork).
- Locate the cooked garlic and squeeze it back into the dish with a garlic press. Add the raw chopped or crushed garlic and the finely chopped basil. Taste for seasoning.
- You can serve this hot, at room temperature or chilled. Serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and raw extra virgin olive oil to swirl on top at the table.