Oct 26, 2013


There are two major categories of Italian hearty soups, or zuppe: those based on legumes of some sort, beans, chick peas, lentils, or whatever, added with grains or pasta, like farro or barley; and those that are based on green vegetables –– minestroni, in short.

In sight of the upcoming monumental holiday menus, a warm bowl of healthy minestra works wonders on the overworked digestive system. Plus dinosaur kale is starting to appear on market stalls, so Ribollita makes its yearly debut on my dinner table. Finalmente.

Probably the most representative of Tuscany's zuppa tradition, Ribollita honorably competes with co-regional adversaries Pappa al Pomodoro and Zuppa di Farro for the title of the world's best hearty Italian minestra. Ribollita was the soup typical of Tuscan farmers, and represented the feast of the harvest. Today it is a classic cuisine delicacy, often mis-interpreted and served at white tablecloth restaurants in bowls the size of a thimble. Heresy. Ribollita spells abundance! And thrift! End of rant.

After a first slow stewing, the vegetable-loaded ribollita is left to rest and re-boiled (hence the name, ri-bollita) the next day.

Cavolo Nero––the main ingredient of this twice-cooked bread and vegetable minestrone––is black leaf kale. Some English-speakers call it with its original name cavolo nero, while others refer to it as 'dinosaur kale' or 'laciniate kale' or 'Tuscan kale'.
If you live in the southern hemisphere and it's not exactly cavolo nero season now, here's a trick: adding a sprig of fresh thyme in the preparation magically lends the soup a cavolo nero-flavor. I swear.

There are many variations and family copyrighted recipes for Ribollita. My version is inspired by a combination of the one shared by Artusi, and the version of a Florentine housekeeper that taught my mom this recipe years ago.

500 gr (3 1/2 cups) cannellini beans*
1 leek, trimmed of all green parts and thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 large (or 2 medium) celery ribs, diced
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp tomato sauce
500 gr (2 cups) kale (essential!)
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 zucchini, diced
1/2 large Savoy cabbage
250 gr (1 cup) Swiss chard
4 slices of day-old (or stale) homestyle bread, roughly torn apart
1 tsp salt and generous lashings of cracked black pepper
(A sprig of fresh thyme in substitution of kale)
*If the beans are dried, soak them in water for at least 24 hours; if fresh or canned, simply rinse after removing them from their pods or cans.
You'll be making this dish the day before serving your Ribollita, so be sure to budget time wisely.
Rinse the beans and boil them in salted water for 40 minutes. Set them aside soaking in their cooking water.

Sauté the leek-carrot-celery holy trinity mirepoix with olive oil, in a heavy bottomed pot. When the leek is translucent, add the tomato sauce. Puree half the beans in the blender with their cooking water and add them to the sauce base.

Stir in all the vegetables, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Fold in the rest of the saved beans and the bread, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Keep simmering for 5 more minutes.

Turn off the stove, go to sleep and wish your Ribollita goodnight.
The next day re-boil the soup for 10 minutes and let it rest off the stove for an additional 15 minutes before serving in deep bowls, each containing a garlic-rubbed slice of bruschetta, a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil, and several more turns of the pepper mill.

The wine you should pour with Ribollita should be preferably three things: Tuscan, red and intense. I would go with the earthy Cecchi Bonizio, a marvelous blend of Merlot from Tuscany's coastal Maremma zone, and select Sangiovese grapes from the hills of Chianti Classico, loaded with lots of wild berries, spice and complexity, perfect with the round, full and rich mouthfuls of warm, comforting vegetables.

Buon appetito.


  1. This soup looks fantastic! Perfect when it's cold outside!



  2. Lola,this recipe sounds delicious. I will try it next week, as it's very cold here, so I could do with a warming bowl.
    You've a lovely way with words- I liked "Go to sleep and wish your ribollita goodnight"!

  3. So healthy and so good!! Great choice.

  4. The photos are so inviting I feel like I could reach out and take a taste of that soup. Isn't that rosemary peeking out of the soup?

  5. Just the cure for the post-holidays blues.

    I'm growing cavolo nero in my winter garden, a favorite of mine.
    Territorial Seeds here in Oregon has a number of Italian vegetables available. They are also organic.

  6. Looks absolutely fab!!!! I love minestrone...and of course, YOURS will be the very best...as all your recipes are simply scrumptious!!! And brrr...soup sounds like the perfect antidote to all this snow and cold!!!! Stay warm, dear Lola...thanks for making my day a little yummier and oh-so-toasty warm!! ;-) ~Janine XO

  7. love the smells this one is conjuring...got my mouth watering...lunch cant get here fast enough...

  8. Lola ! You naughty young lady ! You've been to the market again and come back with soup ingredients to make the most tempting bowl of soup there in your photo that perhaps I've ever seen...

    Am going to have to show this to la Grenouille, and see what we can come up with, because this is definitely hot soup weather !

    And I I didn't say it already, best wishes to you for the happiest and yummiest of new years in 2010, I'm sure you are going to be regaling us with more of your terribly delicious looking creations. I've always had a soft spot for Italian food, after visiting Italy at age ten, and spending alot of time around South Philadelphia... where there's a great Italian market in the middle of a big Italian community...

  9. Ah, wonderful, as winter is not over yet despite today's spring-ish feel. We had a wonderful huge pot of minestronè last week with enough left over to share with a neighbor and to put into our freezer.

    Had never bothered to find the meaning of "rebollita". Thanks for the translation. It looks like your zuppa had a very nice night's sleep -:)

  10. Oh the soup looks hearty and warm and delicious! I've never tried this kind so I'm excited to try it sometime.

  11. Looks delish as usual Lola.
    What on earth is black cabbage seeing as how it is essential and all?
    We have a purple/red cabbage here. Is that the same thing?

  12. sounds wonderful....brrrrr....smiles.

  13. ohhhh, this sounds wonderfully delicious. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Thank you all for your warm response!

    Rosaria (Lakeviewer) has pointed out a fantastic seed purveyor check it out! Territorial Seeds

  15. Absolutely perfect for this weather!

  16. I would walk through the highest drifts and blinding blizzards for that soup. Yum-ti-um-tum! Now where can I find the essential black cabbage here in the wilds of Norfolk? Will red cabbage work as well?

  17. Tessa~ you can try @ Seeds of Italy in Middlesex. They ship your online orders.
    I opened the Cavolo Nero page and found many interesting options.
    Seeds of Italy

    oo + xx

  18. As always, I am left slobbering!

  19. It sounds wonderful...you didn't mention how much water....I would love to know, if I used canned beans how much water do I use? Thanks.

    1. Ciao Penny, thanks for your question. For each can of beans I would use a can of water, but keep some more hot water standing by, since beans tend to absorb liquid, you might have to top up with some more if necessary.

  20. The perfect recipe for the changing season! Can't wait to enjoy it with some Bonizio.

    Cecchi Family

    1. I just got a huge bundle of cavolo nero from the farmer's market, and am planning to make a batch asap! Bonizio is the perfect match

  21. Ribollita would get my vote for best zuppa of them all.

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  23. OMG love this recipe! Just wish that I was an Italian housewife so I could have enough time to plan ahead for all this. Is ribollita always vegetarian or do they add some animal products in there sometimes?

    1. You don't need to be an Italian housewife to make good ribollita, just a good forager! I've never heard of meat in this particular minestrone, but considering it started out as a peasant dish, putting bits of pork in it for sustenance makes perfect sense.

  24. I am definitely going to try this - I love our minestre and sometimes they are so much nicer than our creamy, smooth soups...!

    1. Yes, this definitely provides lots of chunky goodness!

  25. Oh E, thank you for a great post about my all-time favorite Italian soup! In fact a I had a bowl for dinner last week because I always make too much and end up freezing some. I still remember the first time I had it in a small town in Tuscany.

    1. It's my favorite too!! And I always make such huge batches that I end up freezing it too :)