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An Italian Tradition to get you through the last of the winter

The 'soffritto' is a cornerstone of Italian cooking and shows such elegant simplicity. Just three ingredients (well four if you include a dash of oil) create such a wonderful smell in the kitchen and form the basis of many a soup or ragu sauce. And what's more it's cheap and easily available. The magic three ingredients are Celery, Carrots and Onions. Just chop them up as finely as you can and fry them gently in some olive oil. You will be impressed with the gorgeous smell.

The reason I am telling you about the soffritto is because it is part of one of my favourite Tuscan soups, so appropriate for a warming meal....the Pappa Pomodoro or Tuscan Bread Soup. Bread soup may seem an odd thing but bread, and particularly stale bread is an important part of the Tuscan kitchen. In this soup something special happens when you simmer it slowly, the olive oil and bread seem to combine to make a lovely texture. So apart from the soffritto mentioned above and the bread we have tomatoes and stock. Italian recipes vary from family to family, so don't worry too much about the details but why not have a go at this soup before the weather warms up? It's cheap and easy and conveys the essence of a trip to Tuscany in the summer. We always have leftover bread from serving breakfast to our guests at Quattro Archi (, so we enjoy making this soup and a big pot provides lunch for a couple of days.

The recipe is something like this:

Put 100ml of olive oil into a large pan (yes it seems a lot but it is an important ingredient), apply a medium heat and add a finely chopped onion, two finely chopped sticks of celery and a finely chopped carrot. After 2-3 minutes add 800g of tinned, fresh or pureed tomatoes. Mix thoroughly, then after another 3 minutes add 250g of stale bread (rustic solid variety if you have it) in approximately 3-4cm chunks. Stir it up and then add 1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock. If you have some sage handy, add that too. Once it is all simmering away nicely, keep stirring it and turn the heat down so it is just bubbling very gently. The bread may stick to the bottom of the pot, so keep stirring while it simmers gently for 30-40 minutes. Taste it to check for seasoning. You will need to add some pepper and depending on your stock, perhaps some salt. Add a few leaves of basil, stir and serve.

We only serve breakfast at the Quattro Archi art centre because there are several restaurants a short walk away where you can experience a range of Italian food. But we do offer great art courses

....particularly printmaking and painting. So if you fancy some Italian food and some creative artwork, why not come and stay for a few days.

Printmaking course available 26th May, 28th July, 25th August. Painting 1st and 15th September. More details at or at

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