La ribollita

La ribollita

La ribollita is undoubtedly the queen of all hearty soups. The word means ‘reboiled’ – and slow cooking is indeed the secret of this thick vegetable soup. Hailing from Tuscany, there are many different versions and recipes, but they all call for black leaf kale, or cavolo nero. You might substitute this vegetable with Savoy cabbage, but the real thing would provide you with the best authentic and deliciously rustic feel and taste. The other key ingredient is the white cannellini bean that is central to many Tuscan dishes. Prepare the soup with the best ingredients you have at hand, and the next day, serve a different version by adding new vegetables. Enjoy the soup in good company with toasted Italian bread.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

100 grams/ 3.5 oz (smoked) pancetta, cubed (optional)

2-4 dry chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2-3 carrots, sliced

1 celery stalk, sliced

3 medium size potatoes, diced

2 tins of peeled tomatoes

1 can of cannellini beans

1 head of black-leaf kale, i.e. cavolo nero, sliced

salt and pepper

fresh rosemary

fresh oregano

1.5 l/ 6 1/3 cups water

(stale) Italian bread

La ribollita

Instructions: 

If you are using dry beans, soak them in plenty of water overnight. Drain and rinse.

Heat olive oil in a large cooking vessel, like a cast iron or cast aluminium pot, and saute the onion, garlic, and pancetta until the onion softens and becomes golden and the pancetta is crispy. Add the chili, carrots, potatoes and celery, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato tins, the cabbage and the beans, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, and with the fresh herbs.

Add enough water, about 1.5 l/ 6 1/3 cups, to cover all the ingredients. Let the soup simmer for about 90 minutes over a very low heat. Remember to stir every now and then, and if needed, add water.

Let the soup stand for an hour. The longer it lingers, the better the taste gets. Reheat it again just before serving.

Toast (stale) Italian bread and put it at the bottom of the soup plate before ladling in the soup. Drizzle some olive oil over the soup and add a pinch of black pepper. You can also serve the soup with a slice of toasted bread.

Pea Soup

Pea Soup

Many cookbooks contain a recipe or two for a pea soup. Known all over the world, people have been eating this soup since antiquity. There are even literary references to vendors selling hot pea soup in the streets of Athens, and Greek and Romans alike were cultivating peas ca. 500 to 400 BC. This innovative, super fast and easy recipe takes a bold new look at this old favorite and dusts off some of those old cobwebs. This time around the peas are partnered with creamy avocado and served with the legendary Tabasco hot pepper sauce. Because avocado is prone to enzymatic browning, i.e. turns quickly brown after it has been exposed to air, it is important to remember to drizzle some lemon or lime juice over the avocados right after they are peeled. When it comes to the nutritional value of the avocado, it contains several types of fats, and high intake has been shown  to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Ingredients: 

2 avocados

zest of 1/2 lime

1-2 tbsp lime juice

5-10 dl/ 2-4 cups vegetable stock

300-400 gr frozen peas

ca. 10  drops of Tabasco

pinch of salt

chives to garnish

Instructions: 

Halve the avocados, peel them, remove the pits and slice the avocado meat into smaller pieces. Grate some lime zest, and the halve the lime, too. Combine the avocado slices with the lime zest and juice in a pot, and pour in the vegetable stock. Bring it to a boil and add the frozen peas. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the soup in small patches in a blender until smooth and transfer to another pot. Check the taste and season with salt and Tabasco. Garnish with chives. You can also drizzle some olive oil over the soup.

Pea Soup

Salmorejo

Salmorejo

Are you searching for a good, refreshing dish? Look no further! Salmorejo, a.k.a. ardoria or porra, is a thick Spanish tomato soup consisting of tomato, bread, garlic, and olive oil. The tomatoes are pureed in a mixer together with the other ingredients, and the end result is served very cold – sometimes even with ice! – with hard-boiled eggs and slices of Serrano ham. Originating from Cordoba in southern Spain, the very tasty salmorejo is similar to the well known gazpacho, but it is thicker and creamier in texture. The hard-boiled eggs add something to chew, and the thin slices of the Serrano ham crown the taste. This is the dish for hot summer evenings, and it doesn’t even require any cooking.

Ingredients: 

3 cans of peeled tomatoes

200 gr/ 7 oz (stale) bread

2 garlic cloves, minced

2.5 dl/ 1 cup water

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 boiled eggs

slices of Serrano ham

Salmorejo

Instructions

Remove the crusts, and cut the bread into slices. Soak in cold water for 15-20 minutes. Once heavy with water, remove a little bread at a time and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Then break the slices apart into small, dry crumbs.

Puree the peeled tomatoes, soaked bread, and the minced garlic in a mixer or a blender. Drizzle some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix very well and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours. The end result should be creamy smooth and dense.

Meanwhile, place the eggs in a pot and cover them with water. Slowly bring water to a boil over medium heat. After about 12 minutes, take the eggs out, and place them under cool running water to stop the cooking. Peel them and cut them into two equal halves. Garnish the soup with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, and serve it very cold with a halved egg and slices of Serrano ham.

Pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro is a prime example of Tuscan cucina povera cooking. This dish is made with ingredients every peasant has available to them – Tuscan salt free bread, ripe tomatoes, olive oil, broth, garlic, plus sage and basil. Initially, this soup was created in order to make some use of stale bread. Several variations of this dish exist, and for example onions, leek, celery and carrots can be added. In winter, this soup can be served hot as a hearty meal and in summer it is equally inviting, but best served at room temperature. For the real experience, only use Tuscan bread and olive oil – you will feel the difference. Once the soup is ready, drizzle a good amount of olive oil on top, sprinkle some black pepper and garnish with a few basil leaves. This is the taste of real Italy!

Ingredients: 

250 gr/ 8 2/3 oz stale Italian bread

550 gr/ 19 oz fresh tomatoes, sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 dry chilies, deseeded and finely chopped

fresh sage leaves

1.5 l/ 6 2/3 cups vegetable stock

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil leaves to garnish

Pappa al pomodoro

Instructions: 

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the minced garlic and a couple of sage leaves together with the dry chilies for a few minutes. Add the sliced tomatoes, season with pepper, and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Pour the boiling vegetable stock into the pan, and let the mixture cook for 10 minutes, and add the stale bread in small pieces. Cook for further 5 minutes and stir the mixture often. Season with salt and turn off the heat. At this point the soup should still be quite watery. Let the soup stand for an hour. After that, mash the bread pieces until they are nearly dissolved and warm up the soup again.

Serve the soup warm, not hot, and drizzle some olive oil on the surface. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper on top and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Vellutata di pomodoro

Vellutata di pomodoro

Ditch the cans and enjoy the fresh produce! This is an excellent soup to prepare when red and beautiful plum tomatoes are in season. These oval-shaped tomatoes are smaller than your average regular tomatoes, and because these tomatoes have less liquid and more firm flesh, they are naturals for food preparation. You can prepare all the sauces and salads with them. Altogether, there are around 7500 tomato varieties grown for various purposes. The consumption of tomatoes is believed to benefit the heart, among other organs. Tomatoes also contain the carotene lycopene, which is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants, and they may even have anticancer properties. Tomato consumption has been associated with decreased risk of breast cancer, head and neck cancers, and might be strongly protective against neurodegenerative diseases.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

2 celery sticks, sliced

600 gr/ 1 1/3 oz plum tomatoes, sliced

5 dl/ 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

spaghetti, spaghettini or capellini pasta

fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Instructions: 

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion becomes golden. Add the celery and the tomatoes and continue frying on a very low heat for about 45 minutes until the vegetables soften. Add water, if needed.

Puree the softened vegetables in a mixer or a food processor. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken or vegetable stock in a separate pot and mix it together with the pureed soup. Add the pasta and let the soup boil over moderate heat for a few minutes until the pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and sprinkle each plate with fresh flat leaf parsley.

Vellutata di pomodoro

Minestrone di verdure

Minestrone di verdure

Minestrone, a thick vegetable soup, is a prime example of cucina povera cooking. Common ingredients include pasta, beans, tomato, celery, carrots and onions, but because there is no set recipe, you can use your favorite vegetables that are in season. Like many Italian dishes, the original minestrone was probably not made for its own sake, but the ingredients were pooled from available left-overs. There are also vast regional differences – Minestrone alla Genovese has pesto in it, but the Milanese version contains potatoes, bacon and pork rind. Minestrone soup can be served cold, too.

Ingredients:

1 onion, sliced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

leek, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

1 large carrot or 3 small, in cubes

1.5 l/6 1/3 cups cold vegetable stock

3 tbsp tomato puree

3-5 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Parmigiano rind

200 gr/7 oz peas

200 gr/7 oz brown beans

100 gr/3.5 oz spaghetti

fresh parsley, chopped

100 gr/ 3.5 oz bacon (optional)

Instructions: 

Minestrone di verdureSlice all the vegetables. Saute the onion, garlic, leek, zucchini and carrots in a pan. Add the cold vegetable stock and the tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper, and add the bay leaves. Let the soup simmer on a low heat for ca. 45 minutes. Half way through, add the Parmigiano rind. Add the spaghetti together with the peas and beans after 45 minutes and let the soup simmer for another 5 minutes. If necessary, add water. Garnish each plate with fresh parsley. Serve with Italian countryside bread.

Tortelloni in brodo

A recent recipe with zucchini was met with great enthusiasm, and that gave me the idea to post a follow-up recipe featuring the king of all vegetables. Tortelloni in brodo is a light and clear soup, and it can be served as a first course or as the main dish. It is almost magical how plain water can be transformed, thanks to fish and meat, vegetables, salt, herbs and spices, into something that is fragrant and tasty. Rediscover the long-forgotten broths!

Tortelloni in brodo

Ingredients:

250 gr/0.5 pound fresh tortelloni filled with eg. cheese and walnuts

1.5 l/6.5 cups vegetable stock

olive oil for frying

1 zucchini, sliced

fresh sage

fresh oregano

250 gr/0.5 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tbsp tomato puree

100 gr/4 ounces bacon, in cubes (optional)

Instructions:

Cook the fresh tortelloni according to the instructions on the package in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Rinse and slice the zucchini and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Saute the zucchini slices lightly before adding them to the vegetable stock. Let the soup simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cherry tomato halves and the fresh herbs. Let the soup simmer for another 5 minutes and add the cooked tortelloni and the tomato puree. Fry the bacon cubes in a separate pan until they become crispy. Add the bacon cubes to the soup and serve immediately.

Tortelloni in brodo