Ribollita is a well-known Tuscan soup, entwined with the history of Italian peasants of the Middle Ages. Literally ‘reboiled’, original ribollita recipes would have consisted of a reheated minestrone, imbued with stale bread for sustenance and bulk. What you’re looking at is frugal Italian cuisine at its origins.
Like minestrone, there are so many different vegetables you can add to ribollita. Whatever you have in the pantry is fair gain. But absolutely all renditions should contain leftover bread, cannellini beans, onion and carrot.
If you’re going to add greens to your ribollita – and you should – then Tuscan cavolo nero is the best decision. But it can be difficult to find. Happily, kale is a more than adequate substitute for cavolo nero, sharing many of its qualities; sweetness and hardy texture. Don’t be put off by the quantity of fresh greens going in the pot; they reduce considerably in volume.
Despite having likened ribollita to minestrone, they shouldn’t be very much alike. Minestrone is brothy and contains pasta. Ribollita, generally speaking, doesn’t contain pasta and should be thick, substantial and almost glossy with good quality olive oil. Hearty doesn’t do this Tuscan favourite justice.
If making your ribollita for two, double up. Though delicious freshly made, your taste buds will sing songs about your culinary achievements for years to come should you allow the flavours to develop and improve overnight. Ribollita is very much nicer the next day. A frugal lunch, perhaps?
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
- 2 jerusalem artichokes, small chunks
- 3 cloves of garlic, mashed
- 2 bay leaves
- a pinch of whole fennel seeds
- a pinch of chilli powder
- 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 400g tin cannellini beans
- 3 handfuls of stale white bread, in chunks
- 2-3 handfuls of cavolo nero or kale
- 1 tsp salt
- a twist of black pepper
- Sweat the onion, carrots, celery, artichokes, garlic, bay leaves and fennel seeds in 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook until soft through.
- Add the chilli powder, chopped tomatoes and beans to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir through the stale white bread and simmer for a further 20 minutes, before adding the greens. Leave on the heat for a further 10 minutes.
- Season with plenty of salt and black pepper and stir through the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil. Serve immediately or the next day.
Cost: A great use of leftover bread, food doesn’t get a lot more economical than ribollita. You can make a big pot, plenty for four, for as little as £2.10. Peasant indeed!