In the Kitchen: Ribollita Soup

With cooler weather here for the winter, gone is my summer staple of fresh tomatoes and homemade feta for dinner. I’m on to soups and stews. One of my favorites is Ribollita, a Tuscan staple that is basically reheated vegetable soup with bread.

This satisfying bowl of Ribollita tastes much better than it looks!

There are versions out there that claim to be authentic (must have cavalo nero, etc.), but what is more authentic for peasant food than to use what you have on hand in season?  This is another “kitchen sink” recipe where I basically clean out the refrigerator, but I try to always have a few ingredients as a base: parmesan rind, beans (preferably cannellini or great northern), greens of some sort (kale is a favorite), and bread. The parmesan rind really makes this soup “pop.” Save your rinds for making soup -don’t throw them out!

Since I regularly forget to salt my bread, I usually have some saltless “Tuscan-style” bread to use. This incarnation uses red kidney beans, cabbage and the last zucchini and green peppers from the garden. Traditionally, this wouldn’t be Ribollita until the next day when you reheat it. But if you don’t tell the food police, I won’t! It’s delicious the day you make it and the next and the next.

Ribollita Soup

  • Olive oil, butter or bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped, optional
  • 2 bell peppers, cubed  (only in season)
  • 1 zucchini, cubed (only in season)
  • 1/4 cabbage, sliced, or other greens (kale is perfect!)
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
  • tomato paste, 1-2 tablespoons
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped (in season or use canned or omit)
  • 1-2 quarts chicken stock or water (depending on how thin you like your soup. N.B. I use a light homemade unsalted stock. If you’re using canned stock, take care when adding salt. Remember, the parmesan rind will add salt too.)
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • fresh basil, chopped (in season)
  • pinch of thyme, oregano or other mixed italian herbs, garbled
  • piece of parmesan rind or parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley, chopped, optional
  • stale artisan-style bread, one large toasted or broiled slice per serving

1. Heat oil or bacon grease (I use a few tablespoons. Be generous.) in a heavy soup pot. Add onion, carrot (and celery if using) and saute until softened. If the pan dries out, add a little wine, vermouth, stock or water.

2. Add remaining vegetables, garlic, herbs (except for parsley), pepper, tomato paste, parmesan rind and stock and simmer until vegetables are cooked through and soup is well-seasoned. Add parsley, and adjust salt and seasonings to taste.

3. Toast or broil slices of bread. Drizzle with olive oil or spread with butter. Put at the bottom of a soup bowl and then ladle the soup over the bread. Add parmesan to taste.

The ingredient list may seem long, but this soup is easy and fast to make. To make the preparation go faster, add ingredients as you chop them. For example, heat the pan and oil while you chop the onion. While the onion is sauteing, chop the carrot and add to the pot. And so on and so on.

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