Ribollita is a satisfying and hearty soup that is certainly one of the most popular dishes of the traditional Tuscan cuisine.
Undoubtedly, ribollita has a peasant origin. In the past it was prepared in autumn and winter with seasonal vegetables, beans and stale bread, and it was consumed as a complete meal, especially on Friday as a meat-free dish, in remembrance of the day Jesus died on the cross. I remember that my dad loved it for his supper and, as a kid, I was supposed to eat it as well, because it is very healthy. In fact, it is rich in vitamins, protein, carbohydrates and fiber, certainly something to add to your weekly menu.
The word ribollita means “boiled again” and refers to the fact that it was prepared the day before and warmed up before eating the next day.
Of course, throughout Tuscany every province and every city or town has its own version of ribollita and thus there is no standard recipe, but nonetheless there is a basic rule: to really be called ribollita, your vegetable soup must include beans and two kinds of cabbage: savory cabbage and kale (for more recipes with kale check kale pie and pasta with kale). Because of the difficulty of finding a universal recipe, I propose my own version that I learned from a friend from Siena and adjusted to my taste by adding some pumpkin. I suggest serving it with a slice of Tuscan bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic, placed on the bottom of the bowl. It is delicious when topped with some extra virgin olive oil, then seasoned with pepper and freshly grated pecorino cheese on top. Actually, the traditional recipe does not call for cheese but I love it with Pecorino from Pienza….de gustibus non disputandum est (Julius Caeser)!
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped + 1 whole for the bread
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
150 g celery (about ¼ lb), finely sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
150 g (5 oz) pumpkin, peeled, cleaned and cubed
250 g (9 oz) canellini beans, already cooked (see note)
250 g (9 oz) borlotti beans, cooked (see note)
250 g (9 oz) kale leaves, finely sliced
200 g (7 oz) Savoy cabbage leaves, finely sliced
5 Swiss chard leaves, finely sliced
2 medium size tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped or 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grated pecorino cheese
1. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat saute the garlic, onion, carrots, celery in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin and potatoes. Cook for 1-2 minutes to mix the flavors
2. Add half of the beans and the rest of the vegetables
3. Add 1 liter (about 1 quart) of water, salt and pepper (according to your taste) and cook covered with a lid for about 1 ½ hours. Add the rest of the beans 5 minutes before removing from the heat
3. Slice the bread. Toast it on the grill or under the broiler. Rub with a clove of garlic cut in half
4. Place a slice of bread in a bowl, cover with soup, drizzle olive oil on top and add freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve the dish hot, topped with freshly grated pecorino cheese. If you like to eat the real ribollita, prepare the soup the day before you plan to eat it. Re-heat it and enjoy!
Note: To prepare the beans using dried beans. Day 1. You should start the day before you plan to prepare the soup. Rinse the beans under running water, then place in a large glass bowl with 2 bay leaves. Fill bowl with plenty of water to cover generously (about 5 cm, 2 inches above the level of the beans). Cover with a lid and soak overnight. Day2. Remove the water and the bay leaves, rinse the beans and cook in plenty of water. Add salt only just before they are done. – Paola