Ribollita is a thick Tuscan stew. It features plenty of beans, dark greens, olive oil and day-old bread. It’s a nourishing and filling dish for the cold, winter days. Despite the level of depth this recipe brings out, it still takes less than an hour to make.
History of Ribollita
Ribollita is a Tuscan bread soup. It’s a hearty meal complete with vegetables and bread. The name literally means reboiled because you can throw just about anything in it. As with many Tuscan meals, this soup comes with a peasant origin.
Initially, it was created by merely reheating leftover vegetable or minestrone soup from the previous day. During the reboiling process, people would throw in some more fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor. It’s typically made with inexpensive ingredients that allowed it to be more affordable. Common choices include potatoes, onion, celery, chard, beans and carrots.
Some records show this soup was around during the Middle Ages as well. That’s when the servants gathered up the leftover food-soaked bread pieces from the banquets and used them in their family’s soup for dinner.
Unique Characteristics of Ribollita
A true ribollita is made several days before serving. You want to throw whatever leftover ingredients you have into it. Just because it’s traditionally vegetarian, it also works well with leftover meats such as salami, pancetta and ham.
The aspect that makes a ribollita different from other stews is the day-old bread that’s included. These bread chunks or croutons change the entire texture of the stew and set it apart from mainstream soups.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium carrots or equiv. winter squash, chopped
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 14- ounce / 400 ml can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pound / 16 ounces / 450g cavolo nero (lacinato kale, Tuscan kale), stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
- 4 cups / 22 oz / 620g cooked white beans
- 1/2 pound / 8 oz / 225g crustless loaf of bread
- 1 1/2 + teaspoons fine grain sea salt
- zest of one lemon
- lots of well-chopped oily black olives
In your largest thick-bottomed pot over medium heat combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and red onion. Cook for 10 -15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid any browning. Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up a bit. Stir in the cavolo nero, 3 cups of the beans, and 8 cups / 2 liters water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a generous splash of water – until smooth. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Stir both the beans and bread into the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 minutes or so. Stir in the salt, taste and add more if needed. Stir in the lemon zest.
Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate overnight. Serve reheated, or “ribollita” meaning reboiled, the next day ladled into bowls. Finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped olives.
Rachael Ray shares her variation of this recipe on YouTube.
If you want to see the traditional method, Pasta Grannies also posted an informational video.
There are too many variations available to list; you can add or take out anything you want. It’s even possible to make it without the bread if you prefer. Just make sure you add some extra beans to create the thick texture.
If you want to increase the brightness and zest, add some lemon to the mixture.
It’s also helpful to know that this stew freezes well. Make an extra helping and put it in the freezer for a quick weeknight family meal. Just make sure you add the bread when you reheat it.
Enjoy the Meal
Imagine the smell of this soup as it reheats in a crockpot on a cold Sunday afternoon. It’s the perfect dish to bring your friends and family together in one place. Customize it until it becomes your own concoction.