I have probably claimed that other soups were the heartiest and most comforting ever, and I officially take it back. Ribollita is the best of both of those things, and that’s final.
Ribollita is a hug in a bowl.
I wrote an entire book about soups and stews, and since it was a Paleo cookbook, nothing like this was included. But it might be my new favorite.
Ribollita means reboiled in Italian, and it was traditionally made by reboiling leftover vegetable soup with stale bread to thicken and fortify it. It’s the ultimate peasant food, taking leftovers and stale bread and turning them in a hearty one pot meal
I discovered this recipe when searching for soup recipes that use beans, now that I’m a bean-lover. Back in my vegetarian days, I’d often make varying versions of beans and greens soups. Since it’s been a while, I did a little online bean soup browsing to get some inspiration.
Ribollita caught my attention, so I started perusing different recipes for it. Since it’s the epitome of peasant food, there are endless variation and methods. It’s surely the type of thing that an Italian grandmother would probably scoff at a recipe for; she just makes it with what she has on hand.
With that in mind, don’t feel like you need to run to the store for specific ingredients if you don’t have everything on the list. If you have roasted veggies that need to be used up, or ones looking ready to use in your produce drawer, throw them in!
Mirepoix – The onions, carrots and celery – are a classic base and they create the foundation. The fennel adds a nice variation on those flavors. The beans make it hearty and add some protein and texture variation. Tomatoes and tomato paste add umami, as does the addition of the Parmesan rind. And of course dark leafy greens are plentiful in the winter and a wonderful thing to eat more of in these colder months.
And then the bread – what makes it special. Some recipes simply call for the bread to be mixed in and allowed to dissolve into the soup to thicken it. One was more of a refined version, with toasted cheesy bread on the side for diners to dip or add themselves.
I decided to go with a hybrid version; in which the bread is added to the top of the soup so that some dissolves into it, while the top gets toasty in the oven.
Tips for making Ribollita
- Don’t skip the step of straining the tomatoes from their juice, Yes, you wind up adding it all, but cooking the strained tomatoes without all the liquid intensifies their flavor and ups the umami factor.
- This recipe reflects a somewhat traditional list of ingredients. But if you cant tolerate beans, add something else that’s starchy, like diced potatoes, or root vegetables.
- I used homemade 3 day fermented sourdough bread, but if you’re gluten-free, Bread SRSLY sourdough will work great. Just toast it on a sheet pan while preparing the rest of the soup to dry it out a bit before putting on the top.
The best winter stew
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, small dice
- 2 celery stalks, small dice
- 2 large or 3 medium carrots, small dice
- 1 small fennel bulb, small dice
- 4–6 cloves garlic, thinly slice
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 14-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 bunches winter greens (kale or chard, collards) stemmed* and torn unto bite-sized pieces (see note)
- 4–6 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
- 2 15-ounce Cannellini beans, strained and rinsed
- 1 Parmesan rind, optional
- 2–3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 4 cups torn stale sourdough bread (see note)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and Place a large, oven safe pot (a cast iron Dutch Oven is perfect) over medium-high heat.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once shimmering, add the onion, celery carrot, fennel, and garlic. Sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown in spots. Stir in a big pinch of salt.
- Meanwhile, place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain the tomatoes. Crush them with your hands and set aside, reserving the juice.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until it’s evaporated.
- Add the tomato paste, strained tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and cook for another 5-6 minutes, or until the mixture is darker and drier, stopping right before it starts to stick to the pan. Adjust the heat if necessary if it starts to burn.
- Add the reserved tomato juice, greens, thyme, bay leaves and broth. Bring to a simmer. Once the greens are bright green and wilted, stir in the Cannellini beans and Parmesan rind, if using. Taste the broth and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
- Top with torn bread, drizzle with remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan. Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until the soup is bubbly, and the bread is crispy on top.
- Remove the Parmesan rind, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Serve with extra Parmesan.
If you’d like, you can chop up the stems of your greens and sauté them with the veggies – a great way to use it all up!
I made this with homemade fermented sourdough that I made using @lauralivesthegoodlife’s recipe but if you’re gluten-free, this would be great with Bread SRSLY sourdough. If that’s what you choose to use, I’d recommend toasting it on a sheet pan first while the oven is preheating to dry it out a bit.
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