by Wendy Koro
This delicious, hearty vegetable soup featuring
beans, kale and bread is a beloved Tuscan staple.
Tuscan region of Italy is beautiful and picturesque--fertile Chianti
vineyards, hilltops dotted with medieval towns and a generous stretch
of western coastline. Nestled in this peaceful countryside are the vibrant
cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa and Lucca, renowned for incredible art,
architecture and historical charm.
Tuscan food reflects this honest mix of sophistication
and simplicity. Olive oil, legumes, fennel and unsalted bread are standard,
along with lots of vegetables, often fried. Local pig, wild boar, rabbit,
pheasant and fish are usually cooked on a spit or grilled.
But for me it's the soups in Tuscany that stand out.
Humble, comforting, masterful. I never tire of ribollita, especially,
as each Italian cook adds his or her personal touch and no two versions
are exactly alike. What sets ribollita apart from other minestroni
is the use of bread instead of pasta or rice. Traditionally, the soup
sits overnight and the added bread dissolves into the broth as a tasty
thickener when it is--ribollita--reboiled the next day.
1 and ½ cups (9 ounces) dried cannellini beans
(or white kidney beans or fazolia)
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1 clove garlic
- fresh pork bones (rib bones work well, a too-salty
ham bone will toughen your beans)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped (approx. 1 rounded cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2-3 large carrots, chopped (approx. 1-½ cups)
- 2 large celery stalks, sliced lengthwise then chopped
(approx ¾ cup)
- 2 medium potatoes, chopped (approx.
- scant 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 lb. kale, trimmed of all stalks and large veins
and then chopped
- 1 rounded teaspoon good salt
- freshly ground pepper
- artisan bread (approx. half of a small loaf or 3-4
inch section) sliced or crumbled
Pick through beans while rinsing in colander under cold
water, discarding any floaters or foreign objects. Soak according to
package directions or overnight for best results. Do NOT add salt. Drain
and discard liqiud. ( Approx. 3- 15-oz. cans of precooked beans may
be substituted. If using canned beans, skip making the initial broth.
Brown the pork bones in the olive oil, then add onions and continue
Combine initial broth ingredients and drained beans
only in sturdy large pot. (NO salt or acid or your beans will be terminally
tough.) Bring to a boil slowly, reduce heat and simmer gently. Cover
pot, lid slightly askew to vent steam and cook 1 to 1-½ hours or until
beans are softened.
In a second pot, sauté the onions in the olive
oil, stirring occasionally, until they begin to color. Add garlic, salt,
celery, carrots, potatoes and stir well to coat with oil. Whisk the
tomato paste with a little hot water to thin, then add to vegetable
mixture. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring to
Add 5-6 cups of cold water to the vegetable mixture
and bring back to a boil. Add the kale. Don't worry about there being
too much, it will cook down a lot.
Puree about half the cooked, drained beans well and
add the puree to the soup mixture. Simmer, covered, for an hour or so.
If soup becomes too thick, add more water. Season to taste with salt
and pepper. Remove pork bones, stripping off any bits of meat to stay
in the broth. Add remaining whole beans and bread...If pressed for time,
the hot soup can be ladled over a single slice of bread in each bowl.
Otherwise, the bread should be crumbled and added to the pot, then reheated
later in the Tuscan tradition.
Most Italians add a drizzle of olive oil atop their