Baby, its cold outside!! Well, we can’t think anything better tonight than this...
Bella Buona Calda, Ribollita!!
Zuppa Ribollita is for all the bread lovers out there looking for a soul warming bowl of comfort. This hearty rustic soup is a classic Tuscan dish that has been cooked in peasants’ kitchens for centuries, all over Tuscany.
This stew-y thick, rich soup actually includes just humble white beans, some seasonal fall and winter vegetables, and is layered with slices of day old bread. It’s all finished with copious amount of extra virgin olive oil.
This is your cure to the winter blues. Curl up with a book, in your chunky sweater, maybe with a glass of wine and a giant bowl of Ribollita… Live your best cold weather life…
Ribollita is Italy’s version to their Greek neighbors’ winter warmer, Fasolada. If you follow GypsyPlate, you already know our BIG hit Fasolada recipe, which we love to pieces. It’s another simple, humble bean soup that’s so, so delicious and so comforting.
Now Ribollita takes it one notch up with one more ingredient… bread (I know all bread lover’s eyes lit up, including mine). The bread is what immortalizes this soup. It’s going to be your favorite bread soup…
What is Ribollia
Ribollita, pronounced ree-bohl-LEE-tah, is a classic, robust peasant Tuscan dish that makes the most of two of the humblest ingredients – beans and leftover bread.
Ribollita means “reboiled” in Italian, since it originates from reheating a soup prepared in advance a second time, or even a few times, and adding bread to stretch it longer for a few days. So you eat the bean soup the first day, then layer bread in the leftovers and eat the bulked up soup for the next few days, reheating it as you go.
One story goes that this Zuppa di Ribollita originated in hilltop villages throughout Tuscany during the Middle Ages. Hungry, hard-working peasants who served to their wealthy landowners would pocket the leftover crusts and bits of meat after abundant feasts, then add these to their soups and stews at home.
Another tale relates ribollita to Catholic tradition. As early as the Middle Ages, books mention a soup prepared on Friday in the kitchens of poor families. In the Catholic tradition, Friday was a day of penance and Catholics were asked to refrain from eating meat, as well as any food that was considered ‘rich’, like lard, or even dairy products. Ingredients that were ok to use included bread, vegetables, wild herbs, legumes, pasta or polenta. The soup prepared with these ingredients can be considered an ancestor of today’s ribollita.
Historically, stale bread was crumbled and mixed into the soup to turn it nearly into a porridge. Some Italians say this “soup” should be thick enough to eat with a fork. But of course, that’s not always the case from family to family.
Some prefer the toasty bread on top just to sop up the soup. Some like it layered all throughout. Some like to cook the bread till it disintegrates. It’s all good, and down to individual preferences.
What bread to use in Ribollita
This is a hearty, thick soup loaded with veggies and beans, with bread as the star ingredient. Typically any crusty loaf like Italian, French or sourdough will go great in this soup.
We usually use our no knead bread or ciabatta for ribollita. Day old or slightly stale bread is what ribollita wants! So now you know what to do with that harder, stale leftover bread.
When to add the bread to your ribollita soup?
As mentioned above, people use their bread differently. Simply tear the bread into bite sized chunks. Some add the bread chunks to the soup towards the end of the cooking time and simmer it for a few minutes.
We like to add the the bread chunks in the serving bowl, ladle the soup on top and give it a few minutes to absorb. Then we top it with a few more crusty bread chunks, so you get both crusty and soaked bread in one bowl.
What beans and vegetables to use?
Any white beans like cannellini beans or great northern beans are most typical in the pot. Leafy greens like kale (believe me, it’s great here), swiss chard or even spinach and cabbage are used in ribollita. Onions, carrots and celery make the holy trinity that is the base of the soup, along with some tomatoes.
Well… here is one secret out of Italian kitchens. Using Parmesan rind in soups and stews adds tons of flavor. You will be amazed at what a flavor enhancer it is. Don’t throw away the parmesan cheese rinds, save them in little freezer bags in your freezer and add them to your soup.
Remove the Parmesan rind before serving, you don’t eat it. Some of the rind will dissolve (or it will dissolve entirely, depending on how much you use), imparting richness and flavor to the soup while it simmers. It’s absolutely phenomenal!
How to Make Ribollita
1. Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a soup pot and add the onions, celery and carrots. Sprinkle salt and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the veggies are softened. Add the garlic, red chili flakes and cook for a minute, tossing regularly. Add in tomatoes, vegetable (or chicken) broth, along with fresh herbs like thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary. The fresh herbs really give great flavors to this soup, but in their absence you can rely on dried herbs.
2. Add in two cans of cannellini beans. You will mash up one additional can of cannellini beans and add it later, towards the end of cooking, to thicken the soup. Add the parmesan rind and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
3. Stir in your leafy greens! We used kale, but spinach would also be good in this soup! Kale holds great texture in this soup, and the flavor is really nice here. If you love kale, this is your soup. If you are on the border on liking kale, this will make you a new fan.
Add in 1 can of mashed cannellini beans and let it simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings like salt. Remove the parmesan rind, if it has not dissolved completely, along with any big sprigs of fresh herbs.
4. Now the last thing… Adding the signature ingredient, bread, to your soup. We like to layer it in the soup while serving, in a big serving bowl for whole family. Arrange the chunks of bread at the bottom and ladle the soups all over.
Use a heavy hand with extra virgin olive oil drizzled all over. Put some more bread chunks chunks on top along with parmigiano.
Let the bread absorb the soup for few minutes. Then everyone can serve this soup in their individual bowls with some more drizzle of olive oil. YUMMM…
You can do a million things to this ribollita. Here are a few ideas…
- Add a half cup or more of pesto into the soup while it’s simmering, or add it as a topping. It’s absolutely delicious, and adds a whole other flavor profile to the soup.
- Add in other veggies like zucchini, cabbage (which is quite common) or mushrooms.
- Adding in ham or some sausage will give so much extra protein and flavor to the soup. More like Zuppa Toscana, but with beans.
How to store Ribollita
The best way is to stretch it longer and keep on reheating it for many days like the Tuscans. You can just make bean soup without adding the bread and let it sit in the fridge, developing more and more flavors, for 3-4 days. Add in bread every time you reheat the soup… Classic Tuscan style!
So, how about comfort food, Tuscan style? Put that stale bread to good use… well, here it is!
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Today’s forecast for most of of you: Cold with a chance of Ribollita! Try it… You are going to love it!
Ribollita, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin oil (+ more for serving)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 28oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
- 6-7 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
- 3-4 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
- 5-6 basil leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried basil)
- 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
- 3 15oz cans cannellini beans
- 1 parmesan rind, about 4 inches
- 1 small bunch kale, ribs and stems removed, chopped
- 3 cups bread chunks
- Parmesan cheese, for garnishing
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a soup pot and add the onions, celery and carrots.
- Sprinkle in salt and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until softened. Add the garlic, red chili flakes and cook for a minute, stirring regularly.
- Add in tomatoes and vegetable (or chicken) broth, along with herbs (thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary).
- Add in 2 cans of cannellini beans (you will mash up 1 can of beans later add it to thicken the soup), along with parmesan rind and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
- Stir in kale along with 1 can of mashed cannellini beans and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning like salt. Remove parmesan rind if it has not dissolved completely, along with any big sprigs of fresh herbs.
- Arrange chunks of bread in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup all over. Add on a generous dousing of extra virgin olive oil, along with some more bread chunks and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Let the bread absorb the soup for few minutes before eating.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 515Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 8mgSodium 472mgCarbohydrates 81gFiber 19gSugar 10gProtein 28g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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