Ribollita (Tuscan minestrone)

December 28, 2018

This is a hearty and very warming soup, a Tuscan minestrone enjoyed during cold months and every household would have their own version of it. It is thickened by the stale toasted Tuscan casareccio bread. Usually an Italian minestrone is finished off with grated parmesan cheese. The ribollita doesn’t call for the grated parmesan, however I like to add spare parmesan rinds while cooking this soup (they are edible but very hard so I store them in the fridge and use them to add some extra flavour to soups and sauces).

Make sure you use a good quality olive oil to drizzle on top of the ribollita just before serving. The olive oil when in contact with the warm soup will release its wonderful aroma and make the dish come together.

Serves 4:

  • 150 g of dried cannellini beans
  • 250-300 g of cavolo nero cabbage,the hard stems removed and leaves cut into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 of a large savoy cabbage, shredded but not too thinly
  • a bunch of swiss chard, hard stems removed and leaves cut into smaller pieces
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped (you can use red ones if you wish)
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small leek (optional), finely chopped
  • a cup of  tinned tomatoes or a couple of ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and roughly hopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • a couple of fresh sage leaves
  • a few thyme sprigs
  • 4-8 thin slices of stale bread, toasted and divided into smaller pieces (depending on the size allow 1-2 slices per person)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil (for frying and some extra for drizzling the finished dish)

Soak the beans in cold water overnight. 

Start with heating up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pot and frying the crushed garlic and a couple of rosemary sprigs. Fry everything for a few minutes allowing the garlic to release some flavours, after that discard the garlic. Now add the beans and pour in cold water (the water level should be just 3-4 cm above the level of the beans). Cook on a low heat until the beans become soft seasoning them with salt about 10 minutes before finishing cooking. Add more water if needed. Drain the beans keeping the cooking water. Blend to a creamy consistency about half of the cooked beens with the reserved cooking liquids.

In the meantime in a large pot heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped onions, celery and carrots into the pan. After about 10 minutes minutes add the potatoes and fry everything for  5-7 minutes stirring occasionally. Now add the savoy cabbage, cavolo nero, swiss chard and tomatoes. Cover everything with the bean puree, season with some salt and pepper. Secure with a cooking twine one rosemary and one sage sprig along with 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs. Put the herbs into the soup and cover the pot with a lid. Cook on a low heat for a minimum of 40 minutes or until the vegetables become soft. 

Next add the reserved cooked beans and a little bit of water if needed, but not too much. The soup is meant to be more thick or creamy rather than watery.  Taste and make sure you’ve added the right amount of salt and then grind in some black pepper to your preference. Discard the herbs.

For the bread layers:

Pour some soup into another pot. Next arrange one layer of the bread pieces on top and cover with  some more soup. Make another layer of bread and cover with the remaining soup.

Put a lid on and leave to cool. The bread will absorb the liquid, turn soft and thicken the soup.

To serve:

Warm up the soup on a low heat. Add more water or vegetable stock if it is too thick. 

Divide it between serving soup plates or bowls and drizzle with a very good quality olive oil moments before serving.

Ribollita means reboiled, cooked again, which is exactly the last stage of preparing the minestrone before serving.