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Ribollita - Tuscan Vegetable Soup Recipe

La Ribollita means reboiled, and it's a winter rustic soup, original from Tuscany. In the old days, in fact, leftovers of any veggie soup were reheated with stale bread.

Nowadays, traditional Ribollita soup recipe includes cabbage, kale, beans and other vegetables, thickened in the end with bread, often still described as stale. But since Italians buy their bread daily, fresh from their local baker’s oven, stale means often just a day old bread. The beans used for this soup are normally dried cannellini, which are soaked in water and then pre-cooked before being added to the rest of the vegetables. However, fresh shelled beans are also available in many markets or grocery stores well into the fall season and are normally preferred for a real Tuscan Ribollita soup.

Here is my recipe for this hearty Italian soup made with ingredients mostly available any time, everywhere.

Ingredients and instructions (serves 6):

• 8 oz/250 g of canned cannellini beans
• 8 oz/250 g of Savoy cabbage, chopped
• 8 oz/250 g of Tuscan kale, chopped (leaves only, no stalk)
• 8 oz/250 g of Swiss chard, chopped
• 1 pound/450 g of crusty bread (ciabatta, sourdough, baguette, etc.)
• 1 14 oz/390 g can of Italian peeled tomatoes
• 1 leek, sliced
• 1 large potato, cubed
• 1 yellow onion, sliced
• 1 zucchini, sliced
• 1 carrot, sliced
• 1 celery stick, sliced
• salt and pepper
• grated Parmesan cheese
• 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1. Drain and reserve the liquid of the cannellini beans. Do the same with the canned tomatoes, then crush them with a fork and drain any more liquid they might release in this process.
2. In a large soup pot, over low heat, sauté the leek and the onion with half of the olive oil for a few minutes, just until they start turning golden in color.
3. Add the cannellini beans to the pot together with the crushed tomatoes and the rest of the vegetables.
4. Season with salt and pepper, stir with a wooden spoon and let sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring again time to time. This will allow the vegetables to “sweat”, releasing and combining some of their juices and giving more flavor to the soup.
5. Cover the vegetables with the reserved liquid from the beans and tomatoes, plus 1 quart (1 liter) of water. Add some more salt and pepper and once the soup is boiling lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the soup liquid is reduced.
6. Meanwhile, cut the bread in rather thin slices, toast them well and lay one or two at the bottom of each soup bowl (shallow pasta bowls are the best to serve this soup). Ladle the ribollita over the bread, garnish with a lithe drizzle of the remaining oil and serve immediately bringing the grated Parmesan cheese to the table.

Note: In Italy, I have also seen the ribollita served slightly “baked” at the end. Once cooked, transfer the soup into an oven proof terrine, cover with the slices of bread drizzled with oil, top with the Parmesan cheese and let the oven giving its magic final touch for about 10 minutes.

Buon appetito

Cinzia Aversa, 2013


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