Ribollita — Italian for “reboiled” — is a hearty Tuscan vegetable and bread soup with peasant origins. Its name comes from the practical reheating of yesterday’s minestrone soup, throwing in whatever leftover vegetables and stale bread you had lying around, and reboiling the whole concoction. I’m happy just to start from scratch and wind up with the same lovely, warm, comforting soup, since leftovers are so rare with four teenage boys eating us out of house and home!
If I had to pick my favorite cuisine, it would be rustic Italian or French. Nothing fancy, just simple, traditional, slow-cooked, handcrafted dishes that you know are made with a whole lotta love. Ribollita is a perfect example of such a comfort-food dish. Yes, it takes a little while to dice up all the veggies that go into the soup, but the beauty of dishes like these is that you don’t have to be precise with the size, shape or even quantity of what you throw in. If you don’t have a particular ingredient on hand, no problem. If you’ve got something hanging around that you’d like to throw in, go right ahead. Don’t like pancetta? Don’t add it. It’s all good.
Although the Barefoot Contessa recipe I use specifies soaking dried beans overnight, I rarely have the forethought to do that, so I use canned beans, and I’ve adapted the recipe accordingly. I made a double batch last Sunday —half for the freezer and the other half we savored in front of a roaring fire. The whole four-day Thanksgiving weekend had been like a long, heartwarming hug, and this was the perfect way to seal that wonderfully sweet memory!
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, ©2006 Ina Garten
- 1 19 oz can white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, divided in half
- ¼ cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
- ¼ pound large diced pancetta or smoked bacon (if using)
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
- 1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
- 1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
- 4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage
- 4 cups coarsely chopped kale
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 6-8 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Drain the rest of the liquid from the canned beans into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
3. Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.