Tuscan Ribollita soup is a classic to be enjoyed any time of year. This is a two-for-one post; a restaurant recommendation for your next trip to Florence and a traditional Tuscan 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.
- 12 ounces dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or a 15.5 ounce can of cooked beans)
- 8 cups water or broth
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 2 medium or 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 2 medium carrots, sliced in thin rounds
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- One bunch black cabbage, shredded (aka Lacinto or dino kale)
- 1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or a 14-ounce can of tomatoes
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- a few chunks of stale bread
- Drain the soaked beans and put in a soup pot with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Cover and cook the beans for 40 minutes, or until soft Set aside half of the whole beans and puree the other half. Set aside.
- In a large soup pot, make a battuto: warming 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the garlic and onion and cook on medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and thyme, stir and cook on low, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Add potatoes, kale, Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir well.
- Pour in pureed beans and 8 cups water or broth. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. At the end, stir in the reserved whole beans.
- Serve the soup right away, adding a few pieces of stale bread. You can experiment with the amount of bread to get different results. The more bread you add, the stiffer the soup.
- Alternatively, cool and refrigerate the soup overnight so all of the flavors will marry. This soup can be served hot or at room temperature.
The beauty of this soup is that it is never the same each time I make it. I am always pleasantly surprised.
Soup’s on! Buon appetito!