Weeknights with Jenny

Ribollita

By • October 3, 2011 • 71 Comments

Ribollita

- Jenny

I do not own an iPhone. I have never seen “The Hangover.” I am not on Facebook, I have never knowingly listened to a Radiohead song and will do yoga only if forced and even then, refuse to let it relax me. It is not that that I purposely miss out on the things that the rest of the world has long embraced; I just sort of forget to pay attention. Except in the case of food.

So imagine my shock, pique even, to realize that everyone I know was well versed in the goodness of ribollita, and that I, for all these years, had been missing out.  “Oh, when you add the bread at the end it’s so magical, isn’t it?” asked my friend A, when I told her what I was making for dinner. She already knew!

My friend and accomplished Italian cook fisheri grilled me about the recipe, sniffed that it should really be made with chicken stock, and then went on at some length about ribollitas he has known. I felt so left out.

But this is truly a better-late-than-never situation, because this soup is the perfect antidote to the season, which may or may not include soccer games in the driving rain, dogs who have to be coaxed out into the chill, and the unshakable sense as you open the door in the morning that the little gift of an uncommonly warm fall day will come no more.

Is this a weeknight dinner? I think it can be if a meal that takes roughly an hour to put together works for you midweek. For me it was the perfect Saturday night supper, to be consumed with a glass of red wine in front of the fire, topped with some chocolate fudge courtesy of the Incipient while we rummaged through my husband’s old yearbooks and made fun of his bangs.

We start at the beautiful beginning with onions and garlic, which, if you like to multi task, you can chop while talking to your colleague on the phone about the people at work whom you both would like to find employment in another state. The chili flakes are optional.

While that’s going you chop up your celery and carrot, toss those in, and then get going on your tomatoes. I used a 32-ounce can, which means that I did not add the last cup of water at the end. (Don’t worry: I am going to remind you of this later.) Yeah, I crushed them, but maybe not as hard as others do. I grabbed the last of the thyme from my herb garden, now on life support, and supplemented it with the bit of the oregano that was left too. I actually think this made for a slight improvement, but what do I know. Don’t forget the potato.

While that is all simmering in the water, wash your kale, pull apart your bread (I had no idea what la domestique meant by four to six slices but I used half of an Italian loaf and a slice of country bread; go ahead, talk about me behind my back) and if you need it, get that last cup of water ready. I probably threw the beans in before ten minutes of kale cooking, because at that point I was getting hungry.

As the bread soaked in, it was indeed such a magical transformation from liquid to hearty that I forgot to add the olive oil at the end. It was delicious anyway: bright, a tiny bit acidic, hearty.  I shared it right away. No one should be bereft of ribollita.

Ribollita by la domestique

Serves 6
  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and crushed red chili pepper flakes. Sweat the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Toss in the carrot and celery with a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the hard stem ends off the tomatoes and discard. Crush the tomatoes with your hands.
  4. Pour the tomatoes (and their juices) into the pot with the thyme, potato, and 3 cups water. Bring the soup to a simmer, turn the heat down and partially cover with the lid. Keep the soup at a low simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Toss in the kale with another cup of water, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the canned beans and continue to simmer the soup 5 more minutes.
  7. Stir in the bread and serve with a drizzle of spicy Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. The soup should be thickened by the bread, but not at all dry.

Photo by William Brinson.

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By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Jennifer Steinhauer

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Comments (71)

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over 2 years ago Mianna

Made this last night with a whole wheat rustic bread. Very good, but oh so much better tonight! Also added a sprinkle of parmesan and do not forget the drizzle of olive oil. I spent the winter of 2001-2002 eating this for lunch daily, thank you for the memories!

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almost 3 years ago yercinnamongirl

MMmmmmmmmmmmm I just made exactly the same recipe minus the bread this weekend. I had spotted it in "FOOD Everyday" and thought OH what a great way to use my swiss chard which I substitute for kale. I am always looking for new ways to use my greens since it is the last thing growing in my garden. Well thanks I made the recipe for a dinner this week and I'll be adding bread!

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almost 3 years ago Emiko

I also live in Tuscany and have a few little notes to share for this staple winter soup. It does have it's "rules" and I think someone should mention that it's not meant to be a "clean out the fridge" soup (or at least not here!). It's made with care and what's on hand but that means the regular seasonal winter vegetables/produce that everyone has in Tuscany (cavolo nero, silverbeet, dried beans to get through the winter etc). The heel of parmesan or the rind of proscuitto helps add a bit of flavour to an otherwise poor, peasant dish, and blending half of the beans makes a beautifully creamy, denser soup. Tuscan bread is of course the most amazing bread to use in this dish (it has a springy consistency that other breads just don't have) but a loaf of ciabatta could be a good substitute if you can get that.

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almost 3 years ago teamom

This is what we term a "clean out the refrigerator" soup. Yes, it seems that Kale is the new "in" vegetable - I can't turn the corner without finding it in a recipe (as this is Pittsburgh, it will probably soon surface on either a sandwich or a pizza).
Trillinchick, my first reaction mirrored yours when I saw the tarnished spoons. Then, I looked at the whole picture, and my admiration for the food stylist increased. The colors of the spoons compliment the tablecloth, and, both being neutral, allow the main dish to shine. Kudos.
My children grew up in Europe. My daughter absolutely despises american celery. So many recipes in the US call for celery, so, I suggest: use lovage. An old herb, a perennial, which has a celery flavour. Buy a small plant in the spring, and plant it where it will have space to grow and flourish. You'll have an herb that will last practically forever.
Good soup, all in all.

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almost 3 years ago teamom

This is what we term a "clean out the refrigerator" soup. Yes, it seems that Kale is the new "in" vegetable - I can't turn the corner without finding it in a recipe (as this is Pittsburgh, it will probably soon surface on either a sandwich or a pizza).
Trillinchick, my first reaction mirrored yours when I saw the tarnished spoons. Then, I looked at the whole picture, and my admiration for the food stylist increased. The colors of the spoons compliment the tablecloth, and, both being neutral, allow the main dish to shine. Kudos.
My children grew up in Europe. My daughter absolutely despises american celery. So many recipes in the US call for celery, so, I suggest: use lovage. An old herb, a perennial, which has a celery flavour. Buy a small plant in the spring, and plant it where it will have space to grow and flourish. You'll have an herb that will last practically forever.
Good soup, all in all.

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almost 3 years ago leigh.bartolomeo

I made this for dinner last night...it was amazing. Hearty and sweet with the kale adding texture. I will be making this again and again I'm sure.

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almost 3 years ago Trillinchick

The recipe sounds appetizing and doable. I have been searching for recipes that incorporate kale, which seems to be the "new, new" veggie. The tarnished spoons in the photograph are off-putting, though. I can taste their tinnyness - yuck! I'd love to have a silver spoon in my moth, but not one of these. ;-)

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almost 3 years ago phyllis

I think those are tarnished silver spoons. Once polished and washed, they would've exactly what you want. I think they look ok in the photo.

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almost 3 years ago sboulton

Funny, I've been making this soup for years, from, what I thought was out of my own head, and the things I like to eat in soup, and had never heard the term ribolitta. It's fabulous and hearty and I make a huge pot and eat it for a week!!

Red_rocks

almost 3 years ago MaSaBeMama

there is a very good version of this in Under the Tuscan Sun (really!) When we made this at cooking school in Tuscany it was more like a vegetable stew and did not have bread - but in restaurants it was served in little earthen bowls with the bread "risen" to the top and shimmering with snappy olive oil. A real classic!

Divanaples

almost 3 years ago divinacucina

am glad you finally tried ribollita-- I have been living in Tuscany since 1984 and teach cooking- here is my Tuscan mother-in-law's recipe-- has more veggies and greens.

When we first cook it, it is minestrone-- with recooking the veggies fall apart more and change-- so the ribollita is really a three day soup-- changing daily-

We make huge pots!

Divanaples

almost 3 years ago divinacucina

http://www.divinacucina... here is the recipe to try- there is also the recipe from mario's trattoria in florence which has more beans!

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almost 3 years ago phyllis

I have an iPhone and an iPad; have nevercseen The Hangover, and go to at least two yoga.classes a week. I LOVE soup. I Love ribollita and can't wait to cook your version, which is slightly different from mine. Thanks, again, for another winning Jenny recipe. Thank you la domestique!!!

Jess-otoole

almost 3 years ago la domestique

Thanks, Phyllis. :)

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almost 3 years ago fayehess

To thicken it a bit, smash about a third to half of the beans before adding. Traditionally, you would make the cannellini from dried (so delish if u start them w/spill of really good olive oil--I love La Macchia, a piece of tomato, a sage leaf and a garlic clove.) Then you can use the liquid from the simmering beans. In Tuscany, they just throw the greens into the soup to cook, but I like to (do it the hard way--it's a problem cooks have) and poach on the side with another little spill of delicious olive oil, salt and a garlic clove until the cavolo (or bietola-swiss chard) is just tender and then add to the soup.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

thanks for these wonderful tips

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almost 3 years ago mybites

I loved the Ribollita at my Florence trip last year, it was always a very nice first dish for lunch. Simple, cheap, tasty and great for leftover bread. Of course it adds to the experience if you eat it in a small restaurant next to the market, crowded with workers from the market and hearing nothing else but Italian chatter. Probably the final very generous drizzle of good quality virgin olive oil is the most important.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

i'd like to get on a plane right now!

Jess-otoole

almost 3 years ago la domestique

I'm glad you enjoyed the ribollita. It's certainly a soup that is open to endless variations based on what's in the pantry. With this recipe, my goal was to stay true to the Italian roots, while making a simple soup that's easy to throw together. Thanks for giving it a try!

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

i can't wait to make it again

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almost 3 years ago Bevi

Soup beautiful soup.

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almost 3 years ago LLStone

Yummy! It was soooo good - I added a parm rind and a squeeze of lime. We loved it!

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

lime adds so much i find, it is my new favorite thing to add to soups

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almost 3 years ago ATG117

The bread in the soup reminds me of my childhood when my mom would make chicken soup for Friday night dinner and I'd tear pieces of challah bread into it. I'm a veg. now, but if you ever find yourself with chicken soup and challah, try it.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

YUM

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almost 3 years ago ATG117

The bread in the soup reminds me of my childhood when my mom would make chicken soup for Friday night dinner and I'd tear pieces of challah bread into it. I'm a veg. now, but if you ever find yourself with chicken soup and challah, try it.

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almost 3 years ago NM Expats

Is THAT what this is called??? We're with you, Jenny .... We've made this for years with the exception of the bread & the addition of a good smoked sausage or some smoked ham. Around here, it's called "Kale Soup." Who knew???

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

GREAT!

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almost 3 years ago Kia M.

Ever since fall has arrived, I've been bitten by the soup bug. This soup looks hearty, delicious, and the perfect way to start my week. If you're a fan of ribollita, I think you'd also like this one-pot green lentil soup!

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

so happy to have that recipe.