Who doesn’t crave a rib-sticking soup or stew in the winter? Ribollita, a vegetable and bread-based soup, is one of Tuscany’s culinary treasures. Like much of the heartier fare in the Tuscan countryside, Ribollita was a dish of the peasants, which used simply farmed ingredients to make a one-dish meal consisting of vegetables, beans, herbs and bread as a thickener. Every family has its special recipe. Served warm or room temperature- never piping hot – ribollita is truly a dish to enjoy year-round that is easy to make.
Italian cooking authority Michele Scicolone shares this recipe and her recollections: “One summer in Tuscany, I was served this soup wherever I went, sometimes twice a day. I never tired of it, because every cook used her own preferred combination of ingredients, and it was always good. This is really two recipes in one. The first is a mixed vegetable soup. The next day, the leftovers are reheated and mixed with day-old bread. The reheating gives the soup its Italian name, which means ‘reboiled.’ This is usually done in the morning, and the soup is allowed to rest until lunchtime.”
Ribollita can last for days. The flavor becomes richer as the bread soaks in the savory softened vegetables. Serve with slices of chewy Tuscan bread or sourdough, perfect for dunking in the soup! For added flavor, top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese.
© 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone
Makes 8 servings
4 cups homemade broth (chicken or beef) or a mix of half store-bought broth
half water (vegetarians/vegans can use vegetable broth)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tender celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1-1/2 pounds peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes or 1-1/2 cups canned Italian
peeled tomatoes with their juice, chopped
3 cups cooked dried or canned cannellini beans
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium zucchinis, chopped
1-pound cabbage or kale, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
About 8 ounces day-old Italian bread, thinly sliced
Very thin slices red onion (optional)
Prepare the broth, if necessary. Then, pour the 1/4 cup olive oil into a large pot. Add the celery, carrots, garlic, onion, and herbs. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the celery and other aromatics are tender and golden, about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook 10 minutes.
Stir in the beans, remaining vegetables, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the broth and water to just cover. Bring to a simmer. Cook gently, over very low heat, until the vegetables are tender, about 2 hours. Add a little more broth or water if needed. Let cool slightly. (Can be made ahead to this point. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.)
Pour about 4 cups of the soup into a blender or food processor. Purée the soup, then transfer it to a pot along with the remaining soup. Reheat gently.
Choose a soup tureen or bowl large enough to hold the bread and soup. Place a layer of bread slices on the bottom. Spoon on enough of the soup to cover the bread completely. Repeat the layering until all of the soup is used and the bread is soaked. Let stand at least 20 minutes. It should be very thick,
Stir the soup to break up the bread. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the red onion. Serve warm or at room temperature.
A medium-body Tuscan red would complement this soup without overpowering the herbal notes. Here are four wines to try: