You can’t say autonno, or autumn, in Tuscany without also saying Ribollita!
The days are still sunny, but the air is brisk and crisp. The leaves are beginning to turn bright orange and yellow. The local markets are displaying equally colorful squash and pumpkins.
Lulu and I smell the smoky perfume from farmers burning dry material in their gardens as we walk into town. The grapes along our path are now a rich, deep purple and will be harvested in just a couple weeks. And every restaurant in town is advertising that they’re now serving my favorite fall soup, ribollita.
The word literally means “re-boiled” and I guess that’s because after you chop up everything and toss it into a pot, you boil it again and again as you serve it day after day until you run out. There are as many variations for this comforting, tasty, stick-to-your-ribs soup as there are restaurants, cafes and nonne, or grandmas, in Italy. Some are brothy and some are almost like a savory bread pudding.
But what they all have in common are some key ingredients: dried bread, cannellini beans (big white kidney beans) and cavolo nero, or black cabbage and the best, most fragrant olive oil you can find. If you don’t have an Italian market stocking up on cavolo nero¸I think kale would be delicious as a substitute.
I never heard of this dish before moving to Italy last year, but I’ve tasted so many and experimented making my own, that now I hope to make it a part of my annual fall cooking tradition.
So, without, further ado, here’s Mamma Gina’s (not quite yet) Famous Ribollita!
15 oz. cannellini beans – fresh, or if dried soaked overnight in water
2 bay leaves
1 cup ceci or chickpeas –optional, but I like them!
2 chopped yellow onions
3 chopped carrots
3 chopped celery stalks
3 mashed and diced cloves of garlic
Pinch to taste of red pepper flakes
1 15 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
11 oz. chopped cavolo nero or kale
2 cups of torn up into chunks stale bread
Salt and pepper
2 – 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Awesome olive oil
Saute the onions, garlic, carrots and celery in a few tablespoons of olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and simmer for a few minutes. Add beans, chickpeas and stock and bring to boil. Stir in the chopped greens. After they wilt, delicately stir in the bread chunks. To me, the best texture for the finished soup is smooth and silky – not too dry. Add a little more or less stock to suit you. Salt and pepper to taste.
After ladling in bowls, it’s customary here in Tuscany to liberally drizzle olive oil over top. For me, nothing is better than pouring some of the olio nuovo, or first press new olive oil on this soup. That is available each October and I’ll tell you more about it then!
It wouldn’t be a blog from Italy without some recipes, now would it? So whip up some ribollita, and “Buon appetito, piatto pulito” as Lulu always says! (“Good appetite, clean plate!”)
Tell me how yours turned out, I would love to hear! Ciao, tutti,