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.
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
1.5 l/ 6 1/3 cups water
(stale) Italian bread
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.