This is actually a two-for-one post; a restaurant recommendation for your next trip to Florence and a traditional Tuscan summer soup recipe to enjoy wherever you are. It is always a good idea to add some Italian flavor to your day; that is my motto.
During my recent stay in Florence, I discovered Negroni Cocktail Restaurant; the perfect blend of old world Tuscany and new trendy. We did the obligatory tour of the Florence city center sites; the Duomo, Uffizi, and David at Galleria dell’ Accademia, and then wanted to escape the crowds. We meandered to the other side of the Arno River, crossed at Ponte alle Grazie and paused to breathe the fresh air and marvel at the view. Another few minutes walk and we arrived at Negroni Cocktail Restaurant on Via dei Renai 17. It was so lovely; we sat outside in the glass-enclosed patio with a view of a neighborhood park and enjoyed traditional Italian dishes and a glass of local wine.
We feasted on stuffed zucchini flowers and Ribollita, the traditional Tuscan soup. This hearty, savory dish is made with black cabbage (dino kale), aromatic veggies, carrot, onion, celery, tomato, thyme, cannellini beans, extra virgin olive oil, and stale bread. It is nice to find a use for stale bread, don’t you think so?
I wanted to learn to make this soup at home, so I began with Paolo Petroni’s cookbook, Recipes of Tuscany: Traditional Home Cooking: Yesterday’s Flavors for Today’s Taste and began fiddling around and experimenting with ingredients. Here is the recipe for you to try at home.
By the way, Paolo Petroni is the president of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (Italian Academy of Cooking) which is an Italian organization whose mission is to, “protect the traditions of Italian cuisine and promote and encourage its improvement in Italy and abroad.” Don’t you just love a cuisine that is protected by its own academy?
Ribollita - Traditional Tuscan Soup
A hearty vegetable soup full of flavor.
Notes to the cook:
To prepare whole tomatoes: Watch demonstration here. With a paring knife, mark an X on the bottom of the tomatoes just deep enough to penetrate the skin. Blanch the tomatoes by dropping in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in ice water for 60 seconds to prevent further cooking. Using a paring knife, cut out the core and peel back the skins beginning at the slit; skins should come off easily. To remove seeds, cut tomatoes in half and squeeze over a bowl to catch the flying seeds. Place skinned and seeded tomatoes on a cutting board and dice. This is a French cooking method called tomato consasse and is the classic method for preparing tomatoes.
- 12 ounces dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
- 8 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- One bunch black cabbage, shredded (aka Lacinto or dino kale)
- 1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, shredded
- 2 medium potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups peeled chopped tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 medium white onions, diced
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- stale bread – a few slices of Italian bread or 1/4 baguette
- Cook the beans in 8 cups of salted boiling water until soft. Set aside half of the whole beans and puree the other half of the beans and add to the cooking liquid. Set aside.
- In 1-gallon soup pot, make a battuto: warm 8 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook until soft. Add the celery, carrot, and thyme and cook briefly.
- Add potatoes, kale, Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes.
- Pour in pureed beans and cooking liquid and simmer over low heat for one hour. At the end, stir in the reserved whole beans.
- Break the bread into small pieces and add to the soup. Cook for a few minutes, and remove from heat.
- Let the soup sit overnight. This soup can be served hot or at room temperature.
Soup’s on! Buon appetito!