Today’s recipe is something that I really love, and makes me glad to live in Tuscany. If you try one of our Florence food tours you’ll meet Ribollita, a peasant bean soup in the style of Tuscany (yes, another one – but all good comes from the roots, right?), one of those that you can never know how to make properly: everyone has its own recipe, its perfect one of course. And, of course, mine is better!
Ribollita means, literally, “reboiled”: because it’s tasty when it’s fresh made, but tastier the day after, when you cook it again, in the pot, or in the oven, or under the grill.
It’s a very easy recipe but to make it the proper way you have to be patient – really patient. It takes at least one day to make it look like a Ribollita and not just a soup. Ribollita has to be thick, not brothy, and it’s not a pureed soup: you have to distinguish the ingredients.
Now, some ingredients are hard to find outside of Tuscany (some of them are hard to find even in Tuscany!), so I will give you some other ingredients that you can use instead of the “true” ones – and it will be great as well!
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- One big frying pan
- One big pot
- 400 g “zolfini” beans, tiny a bit hard after hours of cooking.
If you don’t have the pretty rare and expensive zolfini the cannellini variety will do. Use the dried ones (not the pre-cooked canned kind) remember to soak them overnight.
- 300 g savoy cabbage
- 300 g cavolo nero (black cabbage) / if you can’t find it try with chicory or some green and bittery leaves.
- 300 g swiss chard
- 1 squashed tomato / or some tomato sauce
- 1 peeled red onion
- 2 peeled carrots
- 3 chopped celeries
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 300 g stale bread (like two or three days stale). It should be the “tuscan”, oven baked, unsalty bread, but if you can’t find it just use something else – a baguette will be good, sandwich bread won’t: it will melt and that’s not good.
Boil the beans in 2 liters of cold water, low fire, add the salt only when they’re ready (consider at the very least 45 minutes if they’re cannellini, more if they’re zolfini). When the water’s boiling you can add some carrot and celery if you want more taste. Leave the beans in their water, take a third of them and make a rough puree. Add again the puree to the beans, still in their water.
While the beans are cooking, chop onion, garlic and, separately, celeries and carrots; wash and cut in small pieces the potato; clean the vegetables (wash them only in cold water or they will lose their freshness) and cut them in thin slices. Take of all the stalk, it would be too hard to eat. In one glass of warm water, pour and mix 2 tbs of tomato sauce, or the peeled squashed tomato.
When the beans are ready, sauté the garlic and the onion in the frying pan, with 8 tbs of warm olive oil, carefully – once the smell starts spreading it’s done. You can add some chili to the mix if you like it. When your soffritto is ready you can slowly add all you prepared – celery, carrots, tomato sauce, all the veggies. Add salt and pepper and cook it for 10-15 minutes.
Now you can either add the beans with their water to the mix, or do the opposite and pour all the vegetables in the bean pot: it’s the same, just choose the method that’ll better contain all the food.
Cook the mix for at least one hour: keep a low flame and remember to stir it often with a wooden spoon or it will burn and stick to the pot. The water should be almost totally evaporated. When you still have water, add the roughly chopped bread and keep stirring until everything becomes thick – at this point it’s up to you, decide how thick. It can be almost solid, it can be still liquid – just not liquid.
Leave it rest for at least 3 hours (better if you leave it in the pot overnight)
Re-heat it, serve it – fancy tip, use terracotta casseroles – warm with a splash of olive oil, maybe serve some bruschetta on the side… and enjoy!