Dana's post last week on cavalo nero kale reminded me that we're in ribollita season. Ribollita is a simple, earthy Tuscan soup made from whatever vegetable scraps and stale bread is on hand, and is eaten in the fall and winter months.
The word "ribollita" means "reboiled" and is used to refer to this soup because it requires a lot of cooking to get the right flavor and texture. It's very hearty and filling, and keeps you warm in the winter. There are many variations of it that are regional or passed down along families. It's a very flexible recipe and can be modified once you get comfortable with the basics of it.
Traditional ribollita takes three days to make. In this post I'm going to recommend two recipes; one is Giada De Laurentiis' recipe, which is easy to make and does not take a lot of time. She uses spinach in place of cavalo nero kale; feel free to make substitutions as you see fit. E-rcps.com has the more traditional, time-consuming recipe which I'll also post below.
Giada De Laurentiis' Ribollita Recipe
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling on bread
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 cloves garlic, 1 minced and 1 whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (15-ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) piece Parmesan rind
4 to 6 ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise or 1 loaf, sliced
Grated Parmesan, for serving
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is golden brown and the pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Add the spinach, beans, herbs, stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Drizzle the ciabatta halves with olive oil. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub the top of the toasts with the whole garlic clove. Place the toasts in the serving bowls and ladle the soup over the toasts. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.
E-rcps' Ribollita Recipe
1 cup (dried) cannellini or Great Northern beans
1 head of cavolo nero (black-leaf kale) (or 1/4 head green cabbage, 6 or more Brussels sprouts, etc.) shredded (sliced very thinly)
1/4 head of Savoy cabbage - shredded
1 bunch of Swiss chard - shredded
1 leek - chopped fine
1 onion - chopped fine
1 large carrot - chopped fine
1 large celery stalk including leaves - chopped fine
2 peeled plum tomatoes, ripe or canned - diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine (optional)
1/2 dried hot chili pepper -pepperoncino- (optional)
2 potatoes (optional) - diced
2 zucchini (optional) - diced
2 - 3 T extra virgin olive oil (use more if you like)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, or leaves from one fresh sprig, chopped fine (optional)
1/2 tsp dried or fresh oregano (optional)
Salt and pepper
Italian or French bread one or two days old (optional variation)
Water - enough to cover and add - remember that the taste of the water can also affect the way your 'ribollito' will taste.
SOAK the beans in plenty of water for 8 hours or over night. Drain and rinse.
IN A large casserole or cast iron or cast aluminum pot, with a cover and a thick bottom (one variation calls for putting the soup in the oven for ½ hour, so consider this when choosing your cooking vessel), heat the olive on a bit more than medium heat - you want to sautee the ingredients slowly until the onion is transparent or lightly golden NOT browned - add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, leek, optional garlic and chili pepper, stirring often until the onion has turned color (about ten minutes, depending on the heat)
ADD the tomatoes, cabbage and the beans, more olive oil if you wish, and stir well to mix the ingredients.
ADD the optional rosemary/oregano, a pinch of salt and ground black pepper to taste and mix again.
ADD enough water to cover the ingredients by about 1/4 inch.
BRING to a very slow simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 ½ hours or until the beans start to soften.
ADD water as necessary to keep the ingredients just covered. (for a 'soupier' soup, keep the water level a bit higher).
ADD the optional diced potatoes/zucchini (you can also do this on the following day if there is soup left over, to give it a new taste) - cook for another hour, until potatoes are cooked. Longer cooking softens the ingredients and blends them more.
THE soup can stand for a few hours in a cool kitchen and be re-heated for the meal. The longer it lingers, the better it gets, and some recipes call for refrigerating the soup, covered, over night and serving it re-heated the next day.
VARIATION: Lightly toast the French or Italian bread and put a slice at the bottom of each soup bowl before ladling in the soup.
VARIATION: A Tablespoon of good olive oil on top of each serving.
VARIATION: Prepare a 'soffrito' - sautee some onion, carrot, celery a minced clove of garlic in olive oil in a separate pan and stir in to the soup at about a half hour before serving. After adding the 'soffrito' some recipes call for thinly slicing a red onion on top of the soup, then putting the cooking vessel, uncovered, in the oven at 350 degrees F. for about a half hour before serving.
VARIATION: Spoon out up to half the soup and puree it by running through a 'mouli' or food mill, a food processor (a few bursts) or forcing it through a coarse sieve with the back of a wooden spoon; return the puree to the soup - makes for a much thicker version.
CHEESE is not served with this soup in Tuscany, but suit yourself.