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.

Farfalle fave, pancetta e pomodorini

Farfalle fave, pancetta e pomodorini

Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine and fancy sauces aren’t needed because Tuscans use pure, strong flavors and the freshest ingredients. Many dishes have peasant origins, and ingredients like legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are commonly used. Different types of beans, like fava beans that are featured in this recipe, have long been a big part of the diet as well. Tuscany is also the most famous wine zone in Italy, producing wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti and Chianti Classico, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This particular recipe is an everyday pasta dish that is fast and easy to make. Pancetta provides you with something the chew, and the cherry tomatoes are a fresh addition bringing some color into the mix. Pecorino Romano cheese  is used instead of Parmigiano.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

140 gr/ 5 oz smoked pancetta

2 small cans of broad  a.k.a. fava beans

5 dl/ 2 cups vegetable stock

farfalle pasta

250 gr/ 9 oz cherry tomatoes, halved

salt an pepper to taste

freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

fresh thyme

Farfalle fave, pancetta e pomodorini

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion until it becomes golden. Add the pancetta cubes and continue frying for a few minutes. Add the fava beans and the vegetable stock and let the sauce simmer for 10-15  minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain.

Once the fava beans have softened and the liquid has been reduced, add the tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer for a minute or two, and season with salt and pepper. Mix the sauce with the cooked and drained pasta. Garnish each plate with fresh thyme and freshly ground Pecorino Romano.

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.

Baccalà alla fiorentina

Baccalà alla fiorentina

Baccalà (dried and salted cod) is cod which has been preserved by drying after salting. The drying of food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a shelf life of several years. Traditionally, salt cod was dried only by the wind and the sun, but nowadays it is usually dried indoors with the help of an electric heater. During the 17th century cheap salt became available to Northern Europe, and the affordable product was easily transported to the consumer. Salt cod was also an integral part of the trade between Europe and Asia, and it spread around the Atlantic and became a traditional ingredient in the Mediterranean and many other cuisines. Because drying preserves many nutrients, it is said that salting and drying makes the cod tastier. This particular recipe showcases how salted cod is used in the Tuscan city of Florence. The cod is prepared with a refreshing tomato sauce and combined with rosemary, garlic and parsley.

Ingredients:

800 gr/ 1 2/3 lb baccalà (dried and salted cod)

all-purpose flour for dusting

olive oil

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

fresh rosemary sprigs

1 onion, sliced

2 cans of peeled tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley, finely chopped

Baccalà alla fiorentina

Instructions:

Before preparing the fish, you need to rehydrate it. Soak it in water for 2-3 days, changing the water every 8 hours or so. Test the saltiness by breaking off a small piece. If it is still extremely salty, let it continue soaking as long as possible.

Remove the skin of the baccalà. Cut the fish into ca. 5 x 7 cm or 2 x 2 2/3 inch pieces.

Dust the fish pieces with flour. Heat olive oil in a pan and add the minced garlic and the rosemary. Add the baccalà and continue frying for a few minutes. Set the fish pieces aside to dry on kitchen towels.

Put the pan back on the heat and saute the onion together with the garlic until the onion softens. Then add the peeled tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. Add the fish pieces and continue frying for about 10 minutes. Let the sauce rest for a minutes before serving and garnish each plate with fresh flat leaf parsley.

Baccalà alla fiorentina

Mezzi rigatoni con crema di ceci

Mezzi rigatoni con crema di ceci

Tuscans love chickpeas, ceci, so much so that in the coastal areas of Livorno and Pisa a chickpea flour cake has been named boldly as ‘gold of Pisa’. But this protein bomb is a good source of zinc and folate and can assist in lowering of cholesterol in the bloodstream. It is also one of the earliest cultivated pods, and in the Middle East they have found remains that were 7500 years old. By the Bronze Age chickpeas were already known in Italy. The ancient Romans found some good use for them and roasted them as a snack or cooked them into a broth. This creamy pasta dish mixes the subtle characteristic taste of the chickpeas with tomato and fresh rosemary. You get the best results by serving it with short hollow pasta.

Ingredients: 

2 cans (à 265 gr/9 1/3 oz) chickpeas

olive oil for frying

1 onion, sliced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

120 gr/4 1/3 oz bacon, sliced (optional)

1 can peeled tomatoes

fresh rosemary, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

mezzi rigatoni or other hollow pasta

Mezzi rigatoni con crema di ceci

Puree 1 can of chickpeas in a blender or a food processor until smooth. Set aside. Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion softens. Add the bacon slices and continue frying. Add the pureed chickpeas and mix well with the onion and garlic, then add the peeled tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and fresh rosemary. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add water if necessary. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain the pasta and mix it with the chickpea sauce. Garnish each plate with fresh rosemary and serve immediately.

Schiacciata (Tuscan-style focaccia)

Schiacciata

Italians take bread very seriously – for them it represents a cornerstone in their food culture. There are over 300 different types of Italian bread and vast regional differences. Schiacciata is a Tuscan version of what is known as focaccia in the North. It is a little thinner, and perhaps a little closer to a pizza.  One of the best ways to enjoy a schiacciata is to slice it in two and fill it with Mortadella, the classic cured pork sausage from Bologna. You can also drizzle some olive oil on top and enjoy it pure and simple – absolutely divine!

Ingredients:

500 gr/1.1 lb wheat flour, of which 250 gr/0.5 lb very fine “00” type, and 250 gr/0.5 lb regular all-purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

1 bag of dry yeast

1 tsp salt

1 dl/0.4 cup olive oil

3 dl/1 1/3 water

Instructions:

SchiacciataMix the two different types of flour in a bowl. Dissolve the dry yeast and the sugar in a bit of warm water and pour this mixture into the flour mix. Combine the warm, not hot, water together with the oil and salt, and add them to the flour mix. Start kneading with your hands and keep kneading until the mixture is smooth. If your dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour. Set the dough aside. Let it rise, covered, in a warm place for about 2 hours.

SchiacciataGrease a pan with olive oil and lay the dough out. Continue kneading with your hands, drizzle some oil, and work the oil into the dough. Turn it over, and repeat the same all over again. Once the dough is firm, cover it with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

With your fingertips, poke the surface of the schiacciata sheet. Bake it in a hot oven, preheated to 250 C/480 F, for 10-15 minutes. Drizzle some olive oil, and your schicciata is ready to be served.