Despite my good intentions to do otherwise, I seem to easily wander to the topic of food when I blog about Tuscany. How can I help myself? Tuscan food is simply delicious and there have been so many memorable dishes worth recalling. One of those dishes is ribollita, a soup that never fails to delight my taste buds.
Ribollita is a famous Tuscan soup, a warmhearted pottage made with stale bread and vegetables. Often, the vegetables are left over from prior meals. “Stale bread and leftover vegetables?!”, you might be saying to yourself. Trust me, the combination results in manna from heaven.
Ribollita literally means, “reboiled”. The main ingredients always include leftover bread, the staler the better, cannellini beans and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, beans, and onion.
The soup has historical origins, from the peasant days of the Middle Ages. The wealthy used bread as plates in feudal times. Household servants removed the food-soaked bread trenchers from the tables of their feudal lords and boiled the remains into a stew.
Modern times have replaced the bread trenchers with leftover minestrone or vegetable soup. There are many versions of ribollita, but the main ingredients now typically include two kinds of cabbage, savoy and kale. A drizzle of olive oil once the soup makes it into the bowl completes the dish.
I was in heaven from the very first time that I tasted ribollita. It took a while to finish it, mainly because I had to pause between bites to ooh and ahh over the taste. It really is that good. It is now high on my list of comfort foods.
There are many recipes for ribollita. The following is Chef Donatella Zampoli’s recipe and is one of my favorites:
Ribollita - Traditional Tuscan Soup
1 head of cavolo nero (black-leaf kale) 1/4 a head of Savoy cabbage
1 bunch of Swiss chard
2 celery stalks
2/3 lb. (approx. 10.6 ounces) of cannellini (white beans)
2 peeled plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 lb (approx. 8.8 ounces) of stale homemade white Italian bread (must be old bread at least one week!)
Pre-soak the beans for about 8 hours. Boil them in two quarts of water. In another pot, sauté the sliced onions in olive oil. Slowly add all of the other vegetables, chopped into large chunks. Let them slowly soften for about 10 minutes. Then add the water leftover from cooking the beans and half of the beans. Add the other half after pureeing them. Add salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about two hours. Now add the sliced bread, stir well and let it boil for ten more minutes. Let it stand. Serve in earthenware bowls. Pour in a little genuine Tuscan extra virgin olive oil with a full, fruity flavor.
Enjoy! If you prefer, you can always delight in ribollita in any of the venues that we visit during our workshops in Tuscany and tours of Tuscany. Just ask me where to find the best. I’ve thoroughly researched this topic and would be delighted to share my insider information with you!