Also known as Tuscan bread soup, ribollita is a hearty traditional Italian dish - perfect for our cold PNW winters! There are many variations, but its base makes use of inexpensive ingredients that can usually be found on hand in the kitchen - beans, greens, carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, and leftover bread. “Ribollita” actually means “reboiled,” as the soup is traditionally made from reboiling leftover vegetable soup the next day with the addition of bread. If the idea of cooking bread into your soup is new, keep it in mind as a great way to give slightly stale bread new life and thicken a soup. Any rustic-style bread will do, but we’re partial to a tangy sourdough.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cut into ½” cubes
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how spicy you’d like it)
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
1 sprig rosemary (optional)
1 bunch (approx. 10 oz) kale or other dark leafy green, ribs removed and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked beans, drained (see note below on cooking beans from scratch)
4-5 cups low sodium stock, bean broth, or water
1 hard cheese (i.e. parmesan) rind (optional, but delicious!)
2 cups crusty bread, torn into bite-sized chunks
Black pepper, to taste
For serving: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh herbs, chopped preserved lemon, pesto or herb oil, chili sauce or relish, etc.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, potatoes, celery, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, bay leaf (if using fresh), and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened but not taking on color (about 8-10 minutes). Meanwhile, put ¼ cup of beans in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of cooking liquid and mash to form a paste.
When veggies are softened, add diced tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf (if using dried). Simmer for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the greens, whole beans, 4 cups of the stock (or water), and cheese rind (if using) and increase heat to bring up to a simmer. Cook with the lid slightly ajar for 15-20 minutes, until greens are wilted and potatoes are tender. Add bread, mashed beans, and a splash more water if the soup is looking a bit thick already. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 10 -15 minutes.
When ready to serve, remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs, bay leaf, and cheese rind. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Spoon into bowls and top with grated cheese, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, and any other desired toppings. The soup thickens as it sits, so feel free to add more water at the end or when you reheat any leftovers to reach your desired consistency. Enjoy!
A quick run down on cooking beans from scratch:
1 cup dried = 2-3 cups cooked
Soak your beans! This not only cuts down on cooking time, but will make them more digestible. Additionally, you can soak and cook your beans with a piece of kombu seaweed, which contains enzymes that break down a type of sugar in beans that make digestion hard for some.
- Place dried beans (and kombu, if using) in a bowl and cover with water (3” above the beans). Let soak for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse the beans, removing any debris or stones that may have tagged along.
- Add beans (and kombu, if using) to a large pot with a lid, and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover, leaving a small crack for steam to escape.
- Periodically, try a taste test or mash a bean against the side of the pot. Beans are done when they are tender (exact time varies based on variety), usually about 1-1 ½ hours.
- Remove from heat, season with salt, and let beans sit for 10 minutes.
Note: Don’t be afraid to make additions to add even more flavor to your beans! Sautée some onion and garlic, a few bay leaves, some dried chiles, cheese rinds, lemon zest, and/or herbs like rosemary or thyme in the pot before adding your beans and water. And don't toss your broth - unused cooking liquid makes a great addition to other dishes in place of other broths!