This soup will bring Tuscany to your table, and it is delicious warm, or served at room temperature on a hot summer day. It is a great soup to make in the summer, when the tomatoes are meaty and ripe, but it is also excellent with canned tomatoes, and can be made at any time of the year. And what a great feeling it is to use the stale bread— wasting nothing.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the finished zuppa
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
Three 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups water
Five ½-inch slices stale Italian bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-1inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 fresh basil leaves, washed
Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy 4- to- 5-quart pot. Add the onion and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, crush the tomatoes with your hands or a vegetable mill.
Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot, add the water, and bring all to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the tomatoes have boiled for 10 minutes, add the bread to the pot and bring back to a boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the basil leaves, and adjust the level of heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, whisking occasionally to break up the pieces of bread, until the mixture is dense and silky, about 40 minutes.
If desired, remove garlic cloves and basil leaves. Season the soup to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve in warm bowls, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and shreds of fresh basil leaves, and sprinkled with the grated cheese.