And suddenly – boom – we have all become full-time home cooks, forced to figure out what the heck to make for dinner for ourselves and our families almost every single night. Some friends are making epic meals, others using up those pantry staples. For me, the kitchen has always been my refuge at the end of a long day. I feel truly grateful to continue doing what I love while recognizing that many are not able to during these times. To mix things up a bit, I am trying to cook with spices that I do not normally use – good opportunity to clean out that spice drawer! (Happy to report that I actually used up my star anise the other nite and my sumac supply is running low!)
Most days, however, I find myself wanting good ole’ comfort food that makes us feel like someone just gave us a big cozy hug. Pots of sauce and stock and soup have been bubbling away on the stove, sending a kind of aromatic meditation into the air.
This soup is one such happy place for me. I first had ribollita at a tiny little trattoria in Tuscany on a rainy afternoon in 2006. I have a vivid memory of driving around the countryside with Joey and Mark and spending a warm, cozy lunch over my first bowl. We discussed the ingredients, we talked about (not) finding Tuscan kale in America, we agreed we needed to make it as soon as we got back. When I started traveling to Montalcino not long after, Grappolo Blu, one of the long-standing trattorias in the village, became a refuge for me whenever I visited. In the chillier months, their ribollita always reminded me of that very first bowl – simple, warm, comforting. Discussions on its ingredients with the owner, Luciano, helped me refine my recipe over the years.
There are many variations on how to make the best ribollita. It remains a simple, humble soup made from vegetables, tomatoes, beans and bread. I, at times use other veggies that I may have on hand – sometimes I add potatoes, sometimes not; sometimes I add other greens like escarole, sometimes only kale, sometimes I leave the bread out entirely (please don’t yell at me). It is super easy to make this vegetarian by using water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. And although you can eat this soup immediately, ribollita translates to ‘reboiled’ – magic happens when the soup is allowed to cool and be reheated. The flavors intensify and meld into something sublime. (I love it with a poached egg on top for breakfast.)
Whatever your preference, make yourself a big ole batch and have it at the ready for the days ahead. Looking forward to the day when we can share a bowl together. Sending much love to all. Keep on cooking. Hopefully we will come out the other side of this truly appreciating the simple things in life and with an appreciation for being ‘unbusy’. Let’s take care of each other. We got this! #andratuttobene #iorestoacucina #iostappoacasaPrint
A hearty and comforting Tuscan soup made with vegetables, beans and bread – allow to cool and reheat the next day for a really special treat.
- 2 medium onions
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
- Kosher salt
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups water or stock
- 2 large slices of rustic Italian bread (like a ciabatta), crusts removed, torn into pieces
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
- 1 large bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and torn or sliced into about 2” pieces
- 3 medium yellow potatoes, like Yukon Gold, diced
- Cannellini beans (about 4 cups cooked or 2 (15-ounce) cans)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Grated Parmesan
First, make your soffrito, a base of onions, carrots and celery sautéed in olive oil. Wash, peel, trim and finely chop the onions, carrots and celery. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add in the diced veggies and stir. Add in about 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the veggies low and slow, stirring often until they are very soft, about 20 minutes. Once softened, crank up the heat a bit and sauté until caramelized, about 8 minutes.
Next, add in the garlic, tomatoes and wine. Stir to combine. Allow to simmer until mixture is reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in the water or stock, bread and cheese rind. Simmer until the bread is very soft and beginning to break down, about 10 minutes. (Cook’s note: You can use more bread if desired. I use less than in many ribollita recipes.) Stir in the kale and potatoes and simmer until everything is tender, about 15 minutes.
Place about 1/3 of the cannellini beans in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of water (or bean cooking liquid if you made from dried beans.) Mash using a fork or potato masher until a paste is formed. (Alternatively, puree with a food processor or blender. This will help thicken the soup along with the bread.) Add both the smushed cannellini beans and remaining cannellini beans to the pot. Simmer everything together until tender, about 15-20 minutes. If soup thickens too much as it cooks, add in more water or stock. Taste and season with more salt and pepper.
Ribollita translates to ‘reboiled’ and becomes even tastier when refrigerated and reheated the following day. Fish out the rind if so desire. Ladle the delicious soup into bowls and serve with a hearty drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil and plenty of Parmesan cheese.