Ribollita, or “reboiled” in English, was originally created as a means of using up leftovers, including seasonal vegetables, beans, and stale bread. Ribollita dates back to the Middle Ages. When Tuscany had a feudal system, the wealthy lords and ladies hosted lavish dinners at their large estates. Of course, they had peasants working for them who would do their chores, upkeep their manors, and serve their meals. These peasants were very hard-working, poor, and often hungry. When they served their lords and ladies dinners, they often pocketed the crusts and crumbs of bread left over after a feast. Not only would they pocket left over bread, they would wipe the plates clean of leftover meat juices to allow the bread to soak up the delicious flavors.
Following a feast, the peasants would go back to their humble homes on the large estates. They saved the bread in preparation for creating an inexpensive, tasty, and filling soup. To a large pot, the peasants would add the stale meat-soaked bread, cannellini beans, and any vegetables that they could harvest from their small patch of garden on the estate. From these ingredients, a soup was created. The pot of soup would last for many days and was frequently reboiled; hence, ribollita.
This traditional Tuscan soup is hearty, healthy, and perfect for a cold winter’s night.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
4 cups or 1/2 small head of savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
7 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
5 cups hearty white bread, cubed
Heat oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, pancetta, and carrots to the pot and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and the pancetta becomes crisp (approximately 10 minutes).
Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and ground pepper and continue to cook for another five minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the tomato paste until dissolved. Add the cans of diced tomatoes, including juice. Add in the chopped kale, cabbage, and basil and cook for another 7-10 minutes.
Drain and rinse the cannelloni beans. Put half of the beans in a food processor and pulse until pureed. Add the pureed and whole beans to the stock pot.
Add the 7 cups chicken stock, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and grated parmesan to the pot and stir. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 20 more minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle the bread with oil and toast the bread cubes in the oven, approximately 5 minutes.
Stir in the bread cubes and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Add more salt and pepper as needed.
Serve each bowl of soup with sprinkled with grated parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.