Tuscany is – with a good reason – a top destination for foodies.
But what is the typical Tuscan food. Which dish represents more this extraordinary piece of Italy?
Everybody knows the goodness of the milky pecorino, the savoury and greedy prosciutto or the lardo di colonnata, the huge bistecca, the rich eggy pappardelle with wild boar ragù.
But the vibrant heart of the Tuscan food to me is in all the poor dishes that recall the peasant tradition. Simple and nutritious dishes that reveal the genius and the imagination of those who every day had to invent something to bring to the table.
The Tuscan Ribollita is the expression of this need: a soup rich of winter vegetables with the addition of cannellini beans and stale bread.
It’s difficult to trace the origins of the dish but a theory dates back to the Middle Ages. During the rich banquets, as the cutlery was still not used, slices of bread were used to serve the dishes and collect the food to bring to the mouth.
After the banquets, the servant took the leftovers and probably the bread was used to enrich the “zuppe di magro” – soups without meat.
Real or not, it’s indisputable than the bread has always been considered sacred so throwing it away it was a sin.
Furthermore, Tuscan bread is particularly suitable to be used when staled for bruschette, croutons or soups.
What it’s really interesting to me is that the poor dishes, born from the need, are not only always delicious but , mostly of the time, perfect under the nutrition point.
A bowl of ribollita contains plenty of vitamins and mineral salts proteins from the beans, carbs from the bread and good fat from the extra virgin olive oil.
In wintertime dining with a bowl of ribollita it’s not just extremely comforting, but it’s a complete meal.
You can change the ingredients of the soup following your taste but two ingredients are fundamental to define the soup a real tuscan ribollita: the black kale and the Tuscan bread.
I also recommend you to prepare a large amount of soup as you can store it in the refrigerator up to 4 days or in the freezer up to one month.
You can use also canned beans instead of the dried one, remember to drain and to wash them very well under running water.
400 g. dried cannellini beans – 4 garlic cloves – 2 carrots – 2 celery stalks – 1 onion – 1 leek – a bunch of black kale ( about 6/8 large leaves) – half savoy cabbage – 2 tablespoons tomato paste – extra virgin olive oil – salt and pepper – five slices of Tuscan stale bread
The night before pour the cannellini beans into a large bowl, cover with cold water and let it soak overnight.
The day after drain and wash the beans under running water; pour them into a heavy pan and cover with cold water – consider to cover 4 fingers above the beans livel – add a little pinch of salt and 2 whole garlic cloves. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil at medium heat. Once the water is boiling turn the flame to the minimum and cook for about 40 minutes or until tender.
Peel the carrots and the onion and the garlic cloves
Fold the kale leaf in half hand hold the leaves down, leaving the stem exposed.
Cut the stem off where it meets the leaves.
Cut the leek in half for the lengthwise.
Wash all the vegetables.
Dice the carrot, the onion and the garlic and set aside in one bowl.
Slice the leek and set aside in another small bowl.
Slice the savoy cabbage and the black kale thinly and set aside.
Pour 2 laddles of beans in a food processor and mix until creamy. Reserve the rest of the beans and they water.
In an heavy large pan heat about 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic; let them cook at medium-low heat until tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the leek and cook for a couple of minutes; add the cabbage and the black kale. Stir to combine the ingredients.
Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste, the creamy beans and the whole ones together with their water.
Cover and cook for about one hour, adding some hot water if necessary.
Cut the bread in small pieces and add to the soup, stir with a whisker until you will obtain a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve warm with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
- you can find another Tuscan bread soup recipe here
- other vegetarian winter soups on my blog in the pasta/soups section here
- Here the Wikipedia page about Tuscan Ribollita
Tuscan ribollita bread and vegetable winter soup