Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ribollita- Tuscan Bean and Cabbage Soup

Being from Tuscany, "ribollita", which literally means "boiled again", was a frequent and welcome protagonist at our table. A satisfying, wholesome, flavorful and nutritious soup, completed with a drizzle of estate cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, was without a doubt one of my favorite dishes growing up. In its simplicity lied its strength, and consequently its increasing popularity over the years, which is also in part attributable to many celebrity chefs and bloggers offering up variations of this Tuscan classic. My version, which is the one I grew up with, is most simple, where the stars are the beans and the cabbage. I have seen variations with carrots, zucchini or potatoes, which, in my opinion, transform this basic soup into almost a minestrone.  

Although some recipes call for addition of chicken stock, I strongly advise against it, as it completely alters the intended flavor. We are not making chicken soup here, we are making a soup of beans and cabbage, so chicken stock really does not belong. Rather, the flavor is enhanced the classic "battuto di odori", a combination of chopped onions, carrots, celery and fresh parsley, sauteed to perfection, and which serve as the base for many Italian recipes.

From a true Tuscan with love....

savoy and black cabbage


1 carrot
1 onion
1/2 celery stalk
a few sprigs of parsley
1 15-oz can of diced or pureed tomatoes (or the equivalent in freshly chopped or pureed tomatoes)
1 15-oz can of cannellini beans (or the equivalent in cooked dry or fresh cannellini beans)
1/2 savoy cabbage, rinsed and thinly sliced
about 4 stalks of black Italian cabbage (also referred to as Tuscan kale), stems removed, and leaves chopped horizontally
about 2 cups of vegetable stock or water
extra virgin olive oil- enough to coat the bottom of a medium size pan, plus about 1 tablespoon to drizzle the soup at the end
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
several slices of oven-dried or a few days old rustic bread or baguette

showing the black cabbage with the stems removed

showing the chopped cabbages

Finely chop the carrot, onion, celery and parsley  on a cutting board, or pulse  in a food processor until fine. This is what we refer to in Italian as “battuto di odori”.

In a medium size cooking pot, heat the olive oil, add the chopped “odori” and cook until softened (about 10 minutes), being careful not to burn them. Add the beans along with the liquid, and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the savoy and black cabbage, the stock, the tomatoes(or puree) and cook, semi covered, for about 1 hour, until reduced and everything is soft. With a ladle, remove about 1 cup of the soup (beans, cabbage and all), blend it in a blender until smooth, then pour back in the pot and cook down some more (about 10-20 minutes). Blending a portion of the soup confers a more velvety texture.

Add salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste.

Allow to cool and rest, preferably overnight. Before serving, bring to a boil (hence the name ribollita), and serve in a bowl over toasted bread. Drizzle with some good quality extra virgin olive oil.

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