First Course

Ribollita and the Best Lunch in Florence

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?

Photo Sep 10, 1 31 33 PM
Negroni’s unique version of Ribollita

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.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
  • 8 cups water
  • 8 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium or 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into thin rounds
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • One bunch black cabbage, shredded (aka Lacinto or dino kale)
  • 1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, shredded
  • 2 cups peeled chopped tomatoes, concasse
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • stale bread – a few slices of Italian bread or 1/4 baguette

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. In a large soup pot, make a battuto, by warming 6 tablespoons of olive oil, adding the garlic and onion and cooking on medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and thyme, stir and cook briefly. until well mixed.
  3. Add potatoes, kale, Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir well.
  4. Pour in pureed beans and cooking liquid. If some of the water was lost during cooking of the beans, add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. At the end, stir in the reserved whole beans.
  5. Break the stale bread into small pieces and add to the soup. Cook for a few minutes, and remove from heat. You can experiment with the amount of bread to get different results. The more bread you add, the stiffer the soup.
  6. Let the soup sit overnight so all of the flavors will marry. This soup can be served hot or at room temperature.
  7. 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!

 

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