June 22, 2021

Pappa al Pomodoro

Pappa al Pomodoro served with fresh mozzarella on top and a basil leaf.

Pappa al Pomodoro

A succulent tomato and onion-based Italian recipe.  Traditionally this dish is made with stale bread or breadcrumbs.  I used homemade croutons in this version. Which makes this dish fast to prepare, and the seasoned croutons add a layer of flavor. Another reason to have homemade croutons in the freezer.  

  • Author: Caterina De Falco
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 15-20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 2-3 servings 1x



4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, any color

1/2 medium yellow onion

2-3 fresh garlic cloves

1-4 - 1/3 cup of stale bread, or homemade croutons

1/3 cup fresh basil

Burrata or fresh mozzarella

2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Sea Salt or Celtic Salt


1. Chop the onion. It doesn't have to be finely minced, but the pieces shouldn't be too large. You then can chop by hand or put them in a mini Cuisinart and pulse about 5 or 6 times until the onions are chopped- this is a big-time saver.  

2. Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Again, a rough chop is fine. You could also pulse a few times in the mini Cuisinart after chopping the onion. 

3. Prepare the tomatoes. Traditionally this dish is made with fresh tomatoes blanched, peeled, then chopped. But here's a timesaving tip for you. You can use cherry or grape tomatoes and pulse them in a mini Cuisinart in small batches. Fill the Cuisinart about 1/3 of the way so they chop evenly. You do not want to puree them, merely chop them. Pulsing about 3-4 times is sufficient. You can prepare your tomatoes in about 3 minutes.

Alternatively, if you have homemade tomato sauce, you can use that in place of the fresh tomatoes. However, I don't recommend canned tomatoes because the taste won't be as good. 

4. Prepare your bread.  Cut or break stale bread into small pieces.  I like to keep homemade croutons in the freezer for this dish.  You can add the croutons to the pan while they are frozen.   

5. Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. 

6. Once the oil is warm, add the onion and sauté for about 6 or 7 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned.

7.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for about a minute. This allows the flavor of the garlic to open up. 

8. Add your chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce to the pan and stir with the onions and garlic. Cook until most of the tomato water has evaporated. This should take about 10-15 minutes. 

9. Add your bread cubes or croutons, the fresh basil, and sea salt or Celtic salt. Stir.

10. Cook for a few more minutes so that everything is well incorporated, and the bread or croutons soak up the juices.

This can be made ahead of time, and it can be served cold or at room temperature. When you're ready to serve, add fresh burrata on top or fresh mozzarella. The better the mozzarella, the better the dish. 

Try to buy mozzarella in water.  You can put a large ball of mozzarella or bread on top, serve a family-style, and slice the cheese when you serve everyone.

This is also an elegant dish to serve in individual servings. Slice the cheese on top of each serving, or serve a medium-sized mozzarella ball called Bocconcini.


I do not recommend using canned tomatoes, or boxed croutons, it just won't taste as good. And it's best to avoid the citric acid in canned tomatoes and the preservatives and chemicals in the commercially made croutons and breadcrumbs.  

 I often cook "au pif", as we say in France, which means without a recipe.  You’ll find this style of cooking helps you cook faster and makes cooking easier. With many recipes, you don’t need exact measurements, just a little kitchen intuition.

Write to me if you have any questions on the recipes.

Copyright 2019-2022, Return to the Table by Caterina De Falco, All Rights Reserved

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