Ribollita: A Hearty Tuscan Soup

With the cold, rainy weather lately in San Francisco, a hearty winter soup seemed particularly appropriate. We first tried ribollita at one of our favorite restaurants in Florence, Cibrèo, where it was described as “soup so thick, you eat it with a fork.”

We’ve researched many recipes for ribollita, and found, as this article states, that “rivers of ink have been used to describe the subtle differences between ribollita and bread soup.”

ribollita

The writer of the article consulted Fabio Picchi himself (owner of Cibrèo), who said that there are countless variations on ribollita, but at a minimum ribollita requires thyme and black cabbage, otherwise it is just bread soup. When asked what could never go in ribollita, Picchi’s response was “zucchini, no please.”

Our version of ribollita is based on the core ingredients listed in classic Italian cookbook, The Silver Spoon, but we’ve changed the recipe to make it more like Picchi’s ribollita from Cibrèo. See more from our visit to Cibrèo here.

As we have mentioned before, the key to elevating a simple peasant dish like ribollita to dinner party fare is to pay attention to the details and execution, and also give some thought to wine pairings. Make sure your onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes are all diced to a uniform size, and use high quality dried white beans, such as Rancho Gordo’s Marcella beans.

For a simple weeknight dinner, pair this with something simple and inexpensive like Erik Banti “Carato” Toscana red wine, a sangiovese based blend available at K&L Wine Merchants.  For entertaining with friends, we think Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso, a sagratino based blend from neighboring Umbria is also a great selection. We had a group of friends over for a casual dinner on a chilly, rainy evening and our favorite wine of the evening was Generaj “Latur” Barbera d’Alba, which our friend McLaren purchased Enoteca Vino Nostro.

Finally, the recipe calls for stale bread. This is important! Fresh bread will not thicken the soup the same way, so next time you have leftover bread that goes stale, put it in a bag in the freezer for your next ribollita.

 

Ribollita
 
Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6-8 carrots, diced
  • 6-8 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 lb dried white beans, cooked, with cooking liquid reserved
  • 3 bunches of lacinato, black, or dinosaur kale, rib removed and shaved thin with a very sharp knife
  • 3-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (to taste)
  • water or vegetable stock
  • ½ baguette of stale bread (more if needed)
  • grana padano cheese for finishing
Instructions
  1. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large stock pot. Saute onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until they are very soft and beginning to color. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Add diced potatoes and one quart of water or stock, and the beans with their cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and add thyme and shredded kale. Add additional water or stock if necessary so that it covers all of the ingredients.
  3. Continue to simmer until the soup begins to thicken and the flavors are well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Finely slice the stale bread (it should break apart) and add small amounts at a time, stirring to incorporate, until the soup becomes very thick. Test the consistency with a fork.
  4. To serve, drizzle with fresh olive oil and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.

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