I’ve eaten a lot of the classic Tuscan soup Ribollita (re-boiled). This is one of the best I’ve had. With Stefania and Walter Gambaccini, the owners of BaoNecci on Green, it goes back 5 generations in their families in Altopascio near Lucca.
While Stefania and I were crafting this recipe she said to me that Ribollita isn’t for “big-shots.” It’s “umide” – a “humble” dish for ordinary folks. I call this food la cucina povera (kitchen of the poor) or la cucina rustica (rustic kitchen). Walter said that a ribollita could have as its base all sorts of left-overs that the cook has at hand. The left-overs are simply augmented, re-boiled and served over stale bread. This is the kind of food I like best.
This recipe will serve 6 to 8 people and takes at least 2 days to make. Make the soup the first day, let it sit overnight and re-boil it the next day assembling the zuppa as described below. We serve this soup on a plate not in a bowl. See if you can too!
This is a vegetarian soup. For meat-eaters, if you can find them at your Italian market, add a small prosciutto end and a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind. Other friends make this with a beef or chicken broth. Have it any way you want!
If you can’t devote 2 days to Ribollita, the Day 1 zuppa (soup) is a wonderful minestrone.
- 1 bunch, about 12 stalks Lacinato or Tuscan or black kale. If you cannot get it use any kale
- 2 carrots, cut off the ends cut in half and cut in 1/4 inch slices
- 2 ribs celery, 1 cut in 3\' pieces, 1 cut in 1/4 each slices
- 3 small zucchini, cut off the ends, cut in half and cut in 1/4 inch slices
- 2 large potatoes, cut in half and cut in 1/4 inch slices
- 1 1/2 medium red onion, keep the 1/2 onion in one piece. Peel the whole onion, cut in half and in 1/4 inch slices
- 6 cloves garlic, 2 whole and 4 minced
- 1 small head cabbage cut in half, thinly sliced then diced
- 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered and diced
- 1/8 cup parsley, minced
- 1 pound borlotti beans. (Stefania only uses borlotti beans but other beans can be used if you cannot get borlotti beans, cannellini beans for example.
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cooking Directions
- The Night Before
- Put the beans in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight.
- Day 1. Make the zuppa (soup).
- Put the soaked beans in a pot covered with water along with a couple cloves garlic. the 3 inch celery strips, and the half onion. Gently boil the beans for 60 to 90 minutes or until the beans are al dente. Drain, discard the celery, garlic and onion and set the beans aside.
- Cut the kale into 2 inch ribbons.
- Follow the directions in the Ingredient List to prepare the garlic, cabbage, cherry tomatoes and parsley.
- Cut or chop the other vegetables into a small dice.
- Put about 2 or 3 quarts of water in a soup pot add all of the vegetables and beans.
- Sprinkle in the EVOO.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Gently boil for at least 90 minutes stirring occasionally or until the vegetables are very tender, Much of the water should have evaporated, some beans and potato should have broken down and you have a very thick minestrone.
- If using, discard the prosciutto and Parmigiano rind. (Sometimes I shred/cut the prosciutto into small pieces, same with the pecorino rind and put them back in the soup. They add an nice occasional burst of flavor when one ends up in your spoon).
- Check for salt and pepper to your liking.
- Cool and store in the refrigerator overnight.
- Day 2. To Assemble and Serve the Ribollito
- Put the soup in a large pot and gently boil for 5-7 minutes.
- in the meantime, toast a slice of stale bread for each person at the table (a ciabatta or a batard work well).
- Rub the toast with a raw clove of garlic. (BTW, for another time, add a drizzle of EVOO and you have the real garlic bread!)
- Place the toast in a soup bowl.
- Pour the soup over the bread. Most of the broth should be absorbed by the bread.
- Top with a splash of EVOO and if you like some grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Stefania does not put the cheese).
- Serve immediately.
- Ribolitta will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. It gets better with age!