Monday, September 23, 2013


Now that it's officially autumn and the temperatures are finally getting to be cooler, it's time to start making those warm, delicious, hearty, comfort foods again.  Yay!  I absolutely love the heartier foods that are made in Tuscany and I look forward each year to be able to whip up all the yummy soups, stews, and roasts that come to mind around this time!  One of my favorite dishes (and a favorite of my Toscano) is ribollita.

Ribollita is "peasant food" at its best.  The name comes from the fact that originally it was basically minestrone soup that was "re-boiled" the next day with the addition of leftover bread.  Today's recipes for ribollita rarely call for it to be "re-boiled", but it is still a very inexpensive, yet hearty and delicious meal!

To make ribollita, you need a big pot, a lot of vegetables and some bread.

Start out by chopping up your vegetables.  You'll need some onions (I used red onions here, but you can use yellow onions if you prefer), garlic, carrots, celery and parsley at this point.

After you get done chopping these vegetables, pour some extra-virgin olive oil in a big, deep pot and add your chopped veggies.  Stir them around so they don't stick and season with some salt and pepper.  

Let it cook for 20 minutes and be sure to stir it often.  You really don't want this to stick to the bottom of your pan.  (If you need to, add a little water.)

Your vegetables are going to end up nice and soft with a slight golden color.

At this point, you'll need to add some crushed tomatoes.

Did I mention that this is going to start smelling amazing?  Mmmm!  

Stir the tomatoes in and let them cook for about 5 minutes or so.  They just need to lose that "raw tomato" scent.

While that's cooking, drain your cannellini beans.  Take 1 cup of the beans and set them aside.  When the your 5 minutes are up after adding the tomatoes, dump in the beans (minus the cup you set aside).  

Give them a stir and while they start cooking, place into a food processor the 1 cup of beans that you saved, along with 1 cup of water.  

Whiz them around until it becomes nice and smooth.  

Then add it to your soup, along with a couple liters/quarts of water, and stir it up.  

Next, it's time for the cavolo nero.  Cavolo nero is an Italian variety of kale.  In the US, look for an "Italian kale" or "Lacinato kale".  You'll want to cut out the stems and then chop up the leaves.

Stir in the chopped kale and bring the soup to a boil.  Next, stir in about 1/2 pound of crumbled up bread.  (Please, please, PLEASE do not even THINK about using a soft sandwich bread for this!  You need to find a good Tuscan bread or a hearty, dense, rustic type loaf.)  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 2-3 hours.  Stir it every once in awhile and monitor the consistency (which should be thick, but not dry...sort of like a porridge).  You may need to add more water along the way, or - if it's looking too thin and runny - you may need to remove the lid and let it cook until it thickens up.  

This was taken right after the bread was added.  The finished
product will be very thick. (I forgot to take a picture of the finished
product...I got too hungry!)

Serve the ribollita hot, drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil.  


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
2-3 red onions or (3-4 medium yellow onions), minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 large carrots, minced
2 large celery stalks, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
8 cups (2 quarts or almost 2 liters) water
2 bunches (about a pound or 1/2 kg) cavolo nero (Lacinato kale), stems removed, leaves chopped
1/2 pound (about 1/2 kg) bread, crumbled (day-old bread is best)

Place 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil into a deep pot.  Add the onions, garlic, parsley, carrots and celery.  Stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring often.  Add a little water if needed, to prevent sticking.  When vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes and stir.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  

Reserve 1 cup of the beans, and stir the rest into the soup.  Puree the 1 cup of beans with 1 cup of water in a food processor or blender until smooth, then add to the soup, along with the 8 cups water.  Stir well.  Add in the cavolo nero and bring to a boil.  Stir in the bread, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring every so often.  Add a little water if needed in order to maintain the porridge-like consistency.  If the soup is too thin, remove the lid and cook until it is thickened.  

Adjust the seasoning before serving and drizzle each bowl of ribollita with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

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