It's time to talk not just Italian food but food from Tuscany because it’s one of the corners of the globe I hold closest to my heart. I lived in Florence for a stint and, ever since, those classic Tuscan recipes are some of my ultimate comfort foods.
Yes, Florence is a totally chic town but it’s roots are 100% rustic and there’s nowhere that’s more evident than in the food. So many of the iconic Tuscan dishes are rooted in cucina povera — a style of peasant food that’s all about making the most of what you have in your pantry — and that cooking translates well for no-fuss weeknight cooking.
In the middle of the winter, I’d go for super basic comfort foods like stews, roasts, and soups. And, one that’s so simple but so satisfying is Ribollita. Like the more sophisticated, interesting cousin to minestrone, Ribollita is a vegetable soup made mostly to use up stale bread. But in that genius way that is so Tuscan, which means there is a lot of flavor for this humble soup.
The name means “reboiled” because it’s essentially a twice-cooked soup in that you make it, let it cool down, and then reheat it the next day (a step that makes for lots of good flavor).
Some people add pancetta (and go head if you want!) while others go without the kale and cabbage, but this is the way trattoria next to my Florence apartment would make it. Okay, they’d actually put in so much bread that your spoon could stand up straight when put in the bowl but I was a little less aggressive here. (Though, if you have a lot of stale bread or want to seriously carb load, add as much bread as you’d like!).
As you can imagine, this recipe only gets better the longer it sits so it’s a total natural for the slow cooker.
At this point you have a few choices. For a more traditional take, let the soup cool down, refrigerate it overnight, then warm it over low heat before serving. Otherwise, add the kale and cabbage and reserved beans and stir. Most recipes have you add the kale or cabbage at the start but I like to add it just a couple minutes before serving so that it’s just a tad wilted but not overcooked.
Once it’s done, serve it with additional olive oil, parmesan cheese, and chili flakes (if using). There’s kinda nothing more perfect than this soup for company, especially if you’re looking for something to feed houseguests while you prep a big holiday meal. It’s satisfying, healthy, and really easy to make.
plus 1 head of garlic, top cut off
plus more for garnish
(optional) plus more for garnish
plus more cheese for garnish
or 2 to 4 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
stemmed and chopped
stemmed and chopped
To Soak And Cook The Dried Beans: Place beans in a large bowl and cover with a few inches of water. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours to soak. Drain beans then rinse. Once the beans are soaked, place them in the slow cooker and top with 2 sprigs of rosemary, 4 garlic cloves, and 4 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil. Cover with the water or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or until beans are tender but not mushy (when you blow on the beans, their skins should come off easily but they shouldn’t be mushy).
You don't have to soak the beans overnight -- you can just start cooking them but they will take longer to cook. We like to soak beans because the end result is a superior texture, the beans hold their shape better, and they're easier to digest!
To Make The Ribollita Soup: Discard rosemary and garlic and reserve 2 cups of the beans for later. Using a hand blender to blend the remaining beans into the cooking liquid. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook and stir about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.
Turn the slow cooker to high-heat then add in the onions, carrots, celery, potato, tomatoes, thyme, pinch of dried chili flakes, and a parmesan rind. Cover and cook about 1 hour more or until vegetables are soft and soup has thickened slightly. Add the bread (or breadcrumbs, if using) and stir to incorporate. (If desired, to meld the flavors, cool soup; cover and chill for up to 24 hours).
To Serve The Ribollita Soup: Reheat soup in the slow cooker or in a pan over low-heat setting, stir in the reserved beans, kale, and cabbage and cook until the greens are just wilted, about 10 minutes. Serve topped with additional olive oil, grated cheese, and chili flakes, if using.
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