Ribollita – How Come Peasant Food Tastes SO Good?

La Ribollita, Simmering Away

Continuing with more comforting winter foods, I decided one night to make Ribollita again. Traditionally, this Tuscan dish is usually made one day using whatever leftovers were around and reboiled (what ribollita literally means in Italian) the next for even more of a flavor power-punch. I also read that ribollita should take a total of three days to make! That’s some soup! It should also be made with stale bread, similar to another delicious Tuscan soup, Pappa al Pomodoro, we made months back. The stale bread not only needed to be used up, but it thickened the sauce too. We actually left the stale bread out of our recipe because the veggies made it super thick, but please add it to yours! And, similar to the Spanish Cocido (which also requires a long cooking time), ribollita ingredients and recipes vary from region to region in the country.

Another traditional ingredient in ribollita is cavolo nero (Tuscan black winter cabbage/kale). This stuff is all over Tuscany, we even, no lie, saw it growing on the side of the highway in Italy. It’s beautiful and, damn it!, we can’t buy it that easily even in New York City. I’ve seen it at various farmers markets, but I have yet to see it in any of my local stores. It is a deep, dark green, very nutritious and has alot of “give” meaning it can withstand to be cooked for a good amount of time. I used regular kale and some savoy cabbage instead.

We have travelled to many countries over the past few years and one thing I’ve learned is that poor-people’s food is the absolute best type of food. There is something so amazing and inspirational knowing that the poorest people were able to take all the rich’s ‘throw-away’s’ and create so many delicious, memorable and traditional meals. To me, they are the true hero’s of the culinary world and I look to their techniques to inspire me every day. Not measuring, using whatever around, cooking tough cuts of meat and making them taste absolutely delicious… this is peasant food.

As a reminder, I did not add bread to my recipe, but I am including it in this one. Another thing to remember is, of course, this meal will be more delicious if you soak and cook tried beans. I used canned cannellini beans because of time. I also added a rind of parmigiano reggiano for added flavor. This is also optional. Finally, we totally bucked tradition and added some sausage because we had to use a few links up. Regardless of how you do it, this is a meal in a bowl and is extremely delicious! Please give it a try for yourself.

La Ribollita

RIBOLLITA (Tuscan Vegetable and Bread Soup) – Serves 4-5

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 8 cups of vegetable stock/broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk and some of it’s greens, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 head of kale, ribs removed and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 head of savoy cabbage, sliced in thin ribbons
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced into wedges
  • 2 cups passata (or tomato puree)
  • couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red hot pepper
  • parmigiano reggiano rind (optional)
  • 2 links of sweet or hot italian sausage, sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 loaf of day-old Italian bread (cut into cubes – traditional, but optional)

What to do:

  1. Saute the onion, carrot, leeks and celery in some olive oil until they are relatively soft (bout 8 minutes). Towards the end, add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add zucchini, the kale and cabbage and saute for 2 or 3 minutes.
  2. Add the herbs and hot pepper flakes.
  3. Cover all of this with your vegetable stock and add the passata (tomatoes). Add your cheese rind and sliced sausage (optional).
  4. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer on low/medium-low for about 40 minutes. Add your canned cannellini beans and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Check to see if it needs salt and adjust accordingly.
  5. If you choose to add stale bread, add it at the very end… allow to soak up some broth (about 5 minutes) and allow it to break down. Stir into your soup.
  6. To serve, add a piece of the parmigiano rind to the bottom of the bowl and ladle in some broth and plenty of vegetables. Top with lots of grated parmigiano reggiano and some chopped parsley. Enjoy!


11 thoughts on “Ribollita – How Come Peasant Food Tastes SO Good?

  1. Some of my favorite dishes are peasant dishes from my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother. They would brush them off as “leftovers,” or “nothing special,” but that’s just it they’re extra special because they make you feel so good when you eat them.

  2. Thanks for visiting my site and helping me to find yours. It’s beautiful here!
    Peasant food is the best because it’s simple. The freshest ingredients, but few. I love it.
    Your dish is authentic and I’d like a bowl of it right now 🙂

  3. Love this one – first time we have made it this winter (bragging to the in-laws about it – now I am cooking it!) and we call this “fridge” ribollita. Today’s variation:

    – We didn’t have kale, so we subbed in broccoli raab.
    – Didn’t have bread, so we subbed garlic mashed potatoes.
    – Didn’t want to add another half-full quart jar to the fridge, so we dumped the whole quart of tomato sauce and cut down the broth to 6 cups.
    – And double the garlic. Always.

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