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Ribollita: Tuscan Vegetable-Bread Soup



Serves 6 to 8


2 16 oz cans of good quality cannellini beans, such as Progresso, Goya, or similar white beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

4 stalks of celery, cleaned and finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped

stems from a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely diced

1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced, or a pinch of dried red chili flakes

4 to 6 cloves of garlic (to taste), peeled and thinly sliced

1 28-oz can of good-quality canned tomatoes, such as San Marzano, crushed by hand with the juice from the can

3 or 4 bunches of Cavolo Nero (sold in US as lacinato kale, dinosaur or tuscan kale), thick stems removed, roughly chopped and reserved, leaves finely sliced (you can substitute other types of kale, or cabbage such as savoy cabbage, escarole, spinach and include other bitter greens such as, collard, mustard, turnip or beet greens. (Availability and balance are the key consideration)

good-quality stale bread, or lightly toasted fresh bread, the quantity will vary, but you will probably need at least 3 or 4 thick slices of bread

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

Pistou (you can find our recipe hereor your favorite home made or purchased pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving.  


Heat a large heavy bottom pan or Dutch Oven with a splash of olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onions, leeks,carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, jalapeño, parsley stems and kale stems, with a pinch of salt.  Sweat the vegetables slowly with the pan partially covered until they are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice and simmer for a few minutes.

Add enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil and add the Cavolo Nero or other cabbage with a pinch of salt.  You will probably need to add the Cavolo Nero in stages, as each previous stage cooks down.  When the Cavolo Nero has wilted, tear several slices of the stale bread, add to the pan and stir gently. Add additional water, if necessary.  After about 15 minutes, add the cannellini beans, stir gently and cook for about 30 minutes.  Taste the kale, it may need a few more minutes.  The soup should be smooth, and somewhat thick. Taste to check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve in a large bowl with a sprinkling of shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, some  pistou or pesto, perhaps some good bread and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.  

Chianti is the logical choice for this dish, but a good French Rosé or Italian Rosato works really well with it too. 

The Niner Wine Estates Sangiovese Rosato is also one of my favorites.   

This recipe can be easily made a day in advance and will taste better as well.  Just let it cool before refrigerating and let it return to room temperature the next day before gently reheating it.  It may be necessary to add some additional water, as the bread tends to absorb the liquid.  Stir gently with a wooden spoon as it reheats.  Again, taste and adjust the seasoning. 

Serve with pistou, grilled or toasted bread, some Parmigiano-Reggiano and some good olive oil.  

If you have more leftover soup, you might want to try the “day 4” stage.  Simply heat some olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Add several cups of the soup (about 2 cups, drained, for a 6” pan) to the pan and press down.    

Ribolitta "Day 4" stage

Ribolitta "Day 4" stage

Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the ribollita is golden and crispy on the bottom.  Shake or swirl the pan occasionally to make sure it is not sticking and also check to make sure it is not burning.  Flip the fried ribollita over or place a dish over the pan and turn it along with the pan.  Then just slide the ribollita back into the pan.   Continue to cook until the other side is golden and crispy.  

Remove from the pan and serve with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved red onion, pistou and a drizzle of some good olive oil.  It makes a great light lunch or starter. Enjoy.