Ribollita, A Classic Tuscan Winter Soup

Tuscan Ribollita soup (Florentine soup) made with lacinato kale, cannellini beans, Tuscan bread, and olive oil.
Tuscan Ribollita soup (Florentine soup) made with lacinato kale, cannellini beans, Tuscan bread, and olive oil. Nico Tondini/Getty Images
  • 40 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
Ratings

Ribollita is a hearty, comforting soup that is very traditional and popular throughout Tuscany, and particularly in Florence. It's essentially another way to use up stale Tuscan breadbread (since Tuscan bread is made without salt, it hardens quite quickly). It's made with an assortment of vegetables, cannellini beans, and Tuscan kale (a.k.a. dinosaur or lacinato kale). The first day it's made, it's more of a soup (called "minestra di pane," or "bread soup"), and then when reheated the next day it becomes ribollita (literally meaning "reboiled"), which is even better!

What You'll Need

  • 1 pound/500 g. dried white beans (​cannellini or  Navy beans, washed and soaked for 3 hours)
  • 1 small onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 small carrot (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 6-inch stalk celery (chopped)
  • 1 small bunch parsley (flat-leaf, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound/500 g. kale (lacinato/Tuscan, ribs removed and leaves chopped)
  • 1 pound/500 g. beet greens (or  Swiss chard, ribs removed and leaves chopped)
  • 1/2 pound/250 g. potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 loaf white bread (thinly sliced, day-old crusty Italian)

How to Make It

Boil the beans in water to cover by about 2 inches (4 cm), adding more boiling water if need be to keep them submerged, and lightly salting them when they're almost done.

At this point, saute the onion, carrot, celery, and parsley in the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. When the onion has become translucent, about 5-8 minutes, add the tomato paste and the cooking liquid from the beans. Add the kale, beet greens or chard, and potatoes.

Stir in the cooked beans and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a sprig of thyme. 

Simmer until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced easily with the tines of a fork, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the thyme and discard.

Take a serving dish that can be heated and fill it with alternating layers of thinly sliced bread and soup, making sure the bread is damp, until the soup is used up.

Served immediately, this dish is called minestra di pane, or bread soup. However, it improves dramatically with age, so much that when it’s reheated and served the next day it’s called ribollita and is one of the few reasons to get excited about the arrival of winter.

Reheating does require some care lest the minestra di pane burn: You will likely find that it has absorbed liquid as it rested overnight and looks rather dry. Add a little water, enough to moisten it, and reheat it over a gentle flame, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.

When it is bubbling hot, it is ready.

Serve it as a first course, with a cruet of extra virgin olive oil so your diners can drizzle it on top of their soup according to their taste.

The wine? A light zesty red, for example, a Chianti Colli Fiorentini would go well.