It doesn’t get more Tuscan than Ribollita, a soup found on menus and in Italian kitchens everywhere in the fall and winter.
There are as many versions of Ribolitta as there are kitchens in Tuscany but the vast majority use the same hardy fall and winter vegetables (kale, Swiss chard, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, etc., and cannellini beans and stale bread). What makes one version different than the other is the proportions of each ingredient, namely, what’s available at a market or what in grown in the garden. The final consistency of the soup is also a personal choice — whether it’s soupy with a nice broth, or more like a thick paste, almost spreadable on a toasted piece of bread.
Ribollita means re-boiled. This soup, like many foods prepared, cooled and refrigerated overnight, are magically better the next day. Your kitchen will smell amazing while it is simmering away on the stove top. Do your best not to eat it on the same day. Being a vegetarian soup, it also lasts longer in the refrigerator and gets better day-after-day up to about four days.
This may seem like a “project” but all that is really involved is soaking and cooking beans, and dicing up a bunch of vegetables and bread. It’s all easy! Most of the time needed for this is hands-off simmering on the stove top and letting the flavors meld together overnight in the refrigerator. It’s a low effort, high-impact meal in a bowl.
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- Nearly No Knead Bread
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Zuppa Ribollita Toscana (Tuscan Ribollita Soup)
- 500 grams (16 ounces) of dried cannellini beans
- 400 grams of stale bread, about 6 cups, cubed into 1/2-inch – 3/4-inch (1 – 1.5 cm) from a nice thick crusted bread like my “Nearly No Knead Bread” found on this blog
- 1 bunch of Lacinato kale (as known as dinosaur kale or cavolo nero), washed, ribs removed and cut into ribbons of about 1/2-inch (1 cm)
- 1/2 of a Savoy or Napa cabbage, cored, and cut into ribbons of about 1/2-inch (1 cm)
- 1 small bunch of Swiss chard, washed, and cut into ribbons of about 1/2-inch (1 cm)
- 3 – 4 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) medallions or cubes
- 3 celery ribs, diced into 1/4-inch (.5 cm) pieces
- 3 – 4 small-medium potatoes, diced about 1/2 – 3/4 inch (1 – 1.5 cm)
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced small
- 1 small can (14-15 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Fresh thyme leaves from 5 sprigs
- 2 fresh or dry bay leaves
- Approximately 4 cups (1 liter) of vegetable broth or hot water, as needed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Soak dried beans overnight (at least 12 hours) in a large pot of water. Be sure the beans are covered by at least 4 inches of water
- When ready to cook, drain the water from the beans and refill the pot with fresh water. Bring the beans, rosemary and bay leaves to a boil, and then reduce to a hard simmer. Skim and discard any bean foam that may form. The age of the dried beans will determine the cooking time, which could be between 1 – 2 hours. Cook the beans until nearly done (creamy, but they should still have a little texture). Drain the beans, but save the bean water, you’ll need it later. Place the beans in a large bowl. Discard the rosemary stem and bay leaves
- In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil, and then sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until the onions are translucent (about 7 minutes). Add the potatoes, garlic, thyme, tomatoes and any juices from the can of tomatoes, and break the tomatoes up with a spoon. Sauté for several minutes
- Divide the beans in half. Using a potato masher, immersion blender or food processor, blend half of the beans with 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid until they are a smooth paste. Set the beans and the bean paste aside
- Add the kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, salt and pepper to the pot along with enough of the bean liquid to rise to the level of all the vegetables. If needed, add vegetable broth or hot water. Give everything a big stir and cover the pot with a lid and heat on low for 2 hours
- Add the bean paste and the other half of the beans to the pot and gently stir. Cook for another 30 – 45 minutes with the lid off
- Cut the stale bread into 1/2-inch – 3/4-inch (1 – 1.5 cm) cubes and add to the pot. Alternatively, you may add the bread the next day when re-heating the soup if you want the bread cubes to maintain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the soup rest. Ideally, let the soup come to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Remember, “ribollita” means re-boiled. Overnight all the flavors will meld together even more. About 90 minutes before serving, let the pot come to room temperature for 60 minutes, then heat on medium for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding hot water, if needed, for your desired consistency.