I enjoy soup year round, but with the cool, rainy weather we’ve been having, everyone will be game to warm up to a comforting bowl. It’s easy to make and is a great lunch or light dinner—or to serve for game day instead of chili or the other usual suspects.
For this recipe by Italian cooking expert Erica De Mane, which she contributed to Real Food, she shared a story about her travels in Tuscany that inspired its creation.
“The first time I drove through the beautiful, hilly area, I could smell the sweet acidity of the grapes in the air, and it made my friend and me hungry—maybe just for a panini or some fruit and cheese, but nearly every place we stopped displayed signs in English reading ‘No Light Lunch.’ You either ordered four courses or got nothing. I found it hard to believe we couldn’t get a little something. Eventually we got up the nerve and went into a nice-looking inn and ordered ribollita, which I gathered was some type of local soup. The waiter then said, ‘And?’ And nothing, I was thinking, but he had a rather perturbed look on his face. I glanced down at the wine list and, as if on automatic pilot, chose the most expensive wine they had. ‘And a bottle of your Brunello di Montalcino, per favore.’ The waiter was so happy. Suddenly our light lunch was completely permissible. That’s the way it goes in wine country. And what a great lunch it was.”
Ribollita turned out to be a thick, hearty soup made with beans, vegetables, and herbs, and it features cavolo nero, or Tuscan black kale—a regional specialty—a long dark-greenish plant that when simmered turns rich and earthy, she said. Ribollita means “reboiled,” as this lovely soup gets boiled again after cooking. Then dry Tuscan bread is added, giving a great, traditional soup its thick, warming texture.
Tuscan black kale is becoming easier to find in America. It is often labeled as Lacinato kale or dinosaur kale. If you can’t find it, Swiss chard or regular kale will make a good substitute. If you would like to pair it with wine, De Mane suggests a good Tuscan Sangiovese-based wine such as a Chianti or a Rosso di Montalcino would be great with this soup.
Makes 4 servings
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into medium dice
½ cup peeled and diced carrot
1 celery rib, diced, plus a handful of celery leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1½ cups home-cooked cannellini beans, or use drained canned ones
1 (15-ounce) can plum tomatoes, well chopped, with the juice
1 dried red chili, crumbled
5 thyme sprigs, the leaves chopped
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh salt, to taste
1 quart light chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 cups stemmed and chopped Tuscan kale, Swiss chard or regular kale
3 thick slices day-old Italian country bread, cut into cubes
5 sage leaves, chopped
6 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley, the leaves chopped
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
- In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery plus leaves, and sauté until everything is soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, and soften, about 1 minute.
- Add beans, tomatoes, chili, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the broth, and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook at a low bubble for 15 minutes. Scoop out about 1 cup of the soup and purée it in a food processor.
- Return the puréed soup to the pot, and add kale or chard. Simmer until the kale or chard is wilted and tender, about another 10 minutes. You can make the soup up until this point and refrigerate it, if you like.
- When you’re ready to serve, bring the soup back to a boil, and add the bread cubes. Stir a few times, and let them meld into the soup. They should swell up but not break down completely into the broth. Add the sage and parsley and a bit more salt, if needed. The texture should be thick but still pourable; if it becomes too thick, add a little water, or more broth if you have it. Finish with a big drizzle of fresh olive oil.
- Ladle into big soup bowls and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Nutrition info (Per Serving): Calories 311 (89 From Fat); Fat 10g (Sat. 2g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 465mg; Carb 44g; Fiber 8g; Protein 16g