Italian Bread & Tomato Soup (Ribollita)

updated Feb 3, 2020
Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup (Ribollita Soup)

An easy, satisfying recipe for Tuscan ribollita soup with white beans, kale, and bread.

Serves6

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Credit: Olive & Mango

When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing like a warm tomato soup with chunks of crusty bread mixed in. This version is fast to put together using frozen spinach, cannellini beans, and whatever else you have on hand.

I’ve always heard rustic soups like bouillabaisse described as being made of leftovers. This romantic and spontaneous idea of making a meal out of whatever is left in the fridge has been, until recently, lost on me. I’m a recipe girl. The closest I come to estimating a measurement might be using a regular spoon instead of a tablespoon. For recipes with approximate measurements I’ve found myself wondering, exactly how big is a handful and what constitutes a pinch? Yes, I own a digital scale and use it religiously.

However, this fall, I’m inspired to change. If I can avoid an extra trip to the grocery store and bypass dirtying a measuring cup, I’m for it. And what better to mark the start of my spontaneous journey than ribollita, the ultimate leftovers soup? Literally translated as reboiled, ribollita is a Tuscan soup that can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand. To keep it tasting like a ribollita, it’s best if you start with a base of onions, carrots, and celery and include some form of tomatoes (sauce, pureé, crushed, etc.) and bread.

I used frozen spinach because it’s what I had in the freezer, but kale and Swiss chard would work as well. I had used tomato pureé earlier in the week and had just enough to add to this soup. Tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and pretty much any other form of tomato would do. If you don’t have stale bread, put a few slices of fresh bread in a warm oven and let them dry out without toasting. Add as much bread to create the thickness you like; I like to make it with enough bread so I can taste it in every bite.

Credit: Olive & Mango

Tester’s Notes

Ever since I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, ribollita has taken a strong hold as one of my very favorite soups. Though, thanks to the chunks of bread that soak up the flavorful broth and thicken the pot, it’s most definitely more stew than soup, which I’ve never complain about, especially this time of year when it only makes for a more comforting bowl. Variations abound in Tuscany but what remains the same is the inclusion of white beans, flat-leaf lacinato kale (AKA Tuscan kale), and stale bread. This is an easy recipe to make vegan if you leave off the grated Parmesan cheese, though I will say it makes for the perfect finish if you’re unopposed.

— Sheela, January 2020

Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup (Ribollita Soup)

An easy, satisfying recipe for Tuscan ribollita soup with white beans, kale, and bread.

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces

    day-old stale sourdough or country bread

  • 1

    large bunch flat-leaf or lacinato kale (10 to 12 ounces)

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans

    cannellini beans

  • 2

    medium carrots

  • 2

    medium stalks celery

  • 1

    medium onion

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1

    dried bay leaf

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 cups

    low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    tomato pureé (1 3/4 cups)

  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Tear 9-ounces day-old stale sourdough or country bread into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups). Use your hands to pull the leaves from the tough stems of 1 large bunch flat-leaf kale. Coarsely chop or tear the leaves in bite-sized pieces. Drain and rinse 2 cans cannellini beans.

  2. Prepare the following, placing them all the in the same bowl: Peel and finely chop 2 medium carrots, finely chop 2 celery stalks and 1 medium onion, and mince 4 garlic cloves.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion mixture and 1 bay leaf and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Sauté until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the kale and sauté for a minute so it just starts to wilt.

  4. Add the cannellini beans, 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, and 1 (15-ounce) can tomato pureé (1 3/4 cups). Bring to a boil, then stir in the bread and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until soup thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes more so that the bread absorbs more liquid. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

This recipe has been updated — first published November 2010.