Ribollita in the Style of Siena

Ribollita in the Style of Siena Recipe

This famous ribollita soup is not really a soup in the literal sense; rather, it is a thick panade, or porridge, of bread, vegetables, and beans baked under a sheet of caramelized onions. It makes a wonderful meal in a bowl.

The word ribollita means “reboiled” in Italian, which is just what is done in Tuscan homes with a two- or three-day-old minestrone. A good ribollita is thick with greens, such as Italian black kale (also called Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, or lacinato kale) and spinach, mashed and whole beans, and a mix of vegetables cooked and recooked so many times that they’ve turned meltingly soft. The topping of the ribollita of thinly sliced, cooked-till-crusty caramelized onions gives this dish a lovely appearance, especially when prepared, as is proper, in a wide-mouth earthenware casserole.

A good ribollita is truly divine. I like it so much I skip its earlier minestrone incarnations. Rather, I make the base soup, let it sit for three days, and then go for the masterpiece! In addition, if you don’t eat it all up, which wouldn’t be surprising since the dish is so rich, reheat it again, and it will only get richer and thicker. It’s also good served lukewarm.–Paula Wolfert

LC More From Paula Note

Paula is so passionate about this recipe, that she has a further two pieces of advice about its preparation:

I save Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano cheese rinds in the freezer in a plastic bag, so a piece or two can be added whenever I make ribollita, or any bean soup with an Italian accent. Submerged in liquid, the rind will turn soft and add depth of flavor. If you sliver a softened piece and return it to the soup, it will dissolve and impart flavor throughout.

I learned a great method for preparing large volumes of greens in a soup pot from cooks on the Ligurian coast. After washing the greens, tear them up, salt lightly, and leave for 30 minutes. They will exude much of their moisture and will collapse but will retain full flavor and all their vitamins while giving up much of their bitterness. Before cooking, rinse off the salt, shred the greens even finer, and add to the soup pot.

Special Equipment: A 4- to 5-quart glazed or unglazed earthenware or flameware casserole and a deep 12-inch-wide ovenproof ceramic casserole or Spanish cazuela. If using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pots.

Ribollita in the Style of Siena Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 20 M
  • 5 H, 15 M
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed greens, with a predominance of Tuscan kale mixed with young Swiss chard and baby spinach (see Note)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup diced celery, plus a few tender celery leaves
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 3 cups (1 cup dried) cooked cannellini beans
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or Mediterranean oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or puree
  • 1 small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino rind (optional)
  • 12 slices stale country bread, torn into pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • 3 medium red onions, thinly sliced

Directions

  • 1. Begin the soup 2 days in advance. Rinse the kale and other greens and strip away the hard stems. Sprinkle the leaves generously with salt and drain in a colander in the sink for 30 minutes. Rinse and squeeze dry; then coarsely chop them.
  • 2. Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in the 5-quart casserole over medium heat. If using earthenware, be sure to start on low and raise the heat gradually. Add the chopped yellow onions, celery, and carrot and cook until the vegetables are soft and just turning golden, about 20 minutes. Add the greens to the pot, stirring to coat them with oil.
  • 3. Crush half the cannellini beans to a puree. Add all the beans, the garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, tomato sauce, and cheese rind to the mixture and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Pour in 3 quarts warm water and slowly bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat, uncover, and let cool.
  • 4. Stir the bread into the cool soup and return the pot to low heat. Raise the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until the bread crumbles and the soup turns creamy with small bread chunks here and there. Add water if necessary to keep the mixture smooth but always so thick a spoon can stand up in it. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for 2 days.
  • 5. About 3 hours before serving, remove the ribolitta from the refrigerator. Correct the seasoning with salt, plenty of black pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Remove the cheese rind (see Note). Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • 6. Lightly oil the 12-inch-wide casserole and turn the ribollita into it. Top with slightly overlapping slices of red onion. Drizzle the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil over the top and bake for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and leave the ribollita in the oven until it cools down to warm, 35 minutes. Serve with a pepper mill and a cruet of your best Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Comments
Comments
  1. Stu Borken says:

    At Trattoria ZaZa, just behind the central market of Florence, Italy, occurred my first experience with ribollita and I will never forget it. Like a first kiss or a first…what ever…it was something which left a lasting memory. The romance of the dining room was pure low country simple dining. We sat at a communal table. I sat on a tree stump which was my chair. I ordered wine which came from a spigot in a barrel on a shelf near the ceiling. It was so good. I had practiced my restaurant Italian language and ordered one glass of red wine. I got a smile and was brought one clean glass and one liter of red wine in a carafe. It was so good. I ordered a sampler of three soups. They came in a dish which looked like, and probably was, a babies dish which had three segments and the inside of the bowl was filled with boiling water to keep the three compartments hot. One had ribollita. I don’t even recall the other two. It was a peasant soup. Nothing fancy. Fantastic in its flavor and texture. I can buy black kale in most groceries nowadays. I just need to plan ahead and allow some bread to get stale then I can make a pot of the soup. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Stu, what a magnificent memory. I feel like I was there…I wish I had been there….

      I also wish you an equally mesmerizing experience with this ribollita recipe, although I have to say, it has quite a daunting memory to compete with…do let us know what you think and how you’d tweak to make it more like the one you experienced long ago. And thanks for taking the time to share. I have thoughts of Italy dancing through my mind now, never a a bad thing….

  2. Laura in Texas says:

    The first time we went to Florence, it was a cool, misty fall evening and we stopped into a little trattoria and ate ribollita. The week we got back stateside, I worked to recreate the ribollita. It’s been so long now, but I could have sworn our little place had used purple cabbage and have used that rather than kale ever since. I also made mine a quick stove pot recipe which allows for those hectic evenings instead of having to wait until the weekend to make. I shall have to try making it with kale and see how the favors work.

    • Beth Price says:

      Laura, we would love to know how you turned this into a quick recipe. We could all be enjoying ribollita and a glass of wine for dinner tonight!

      • Laura in Texas says:

        I’ll have to pull my cobbled together copy out of the cookbook and post for you. I grow both green and purple kale in the garden, so I can give the recipe a try with it. I think any hardy green would probably work in this thick soup so I am anxious to try it out. Will get you the fast version soon and you can give it a go.

        • Beth Price says:

          Thank you, Laura!

          • Laura in Texas says:

            This fast version of ribollita makes a satisfying supper. It may not have the same depth of flavor as some of the more complicated versions, but the veggies work together so well you would not guess you can have this on the table within 45 minutes. Don’t leave off the final spritz of oil, it gives the dish a nice lift of flavor and essence. Also, I find the green cabbage to give a sweeter flavor than the purple, but both are good. Below are the rough measurement estimates and veggies, but I change it up depending on what I have on hand and substitute ingredients, but always start with the garlic and veggie trinity as well as the tomatoes and beans.

            1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
            1/2 c chopped onion
            1/3 c each chopped celery and carrot
            1 clove garlic, finely minced
            2 c chicken stock
            1 can Italian plum tomatoes and juice
            1 can rinsed white cannellini beans
            2 c chopped cabbage (purple or green)
            1/4 c each chopped zucchini and bell pepper
            1/8 tsp thyme
            Sliced and toasted Italian bread

            Heat oil in a pan on medium. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook over low heat until tender (about 5min). Add all remaining ingredients except bread and cook uncovered, simmering until all veggies are tender (about 20 minutes depending on size of chopped veggies and how soupy you want it. We like ours thicker, so we increase the time another 10 minutes to thicken). Ladle soup into bowls and spritz lightly with olive oil. Place toasted bread on the soup and serve. Can serve with grated parmasean cheese, but not necessary.

            Hope you enjoy the shortcut, Laura

            • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

              Laura, many thanks, this sounds truly magnificent! Looking forward to trying it….

              • Laura in Texas says:

                Hope you will enjoy. The other <45-minute Italian soup I make is a turkey, pumpkin, and bean soup that warms you up in no time. Something about Italian soups and me and always being short on time!

  3. Stu Borken says:

    The kale was black kale also called Dinosaur Kale. That is the item you may have thought was darker colored cabbage.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail