Ribollita – meaning “reboiled” in Italian – is a classic Tuscan soup made from stale bread, cannellini beans and vegetables. It’s a great way to use up leftovers, but I confess that not one thing I put in this soup was a leftover. I was just thumbing through a cookbook I’ve spent a lot of time with lately – “Barefoot Contessa at Home” – and thought this soup sounded like a great work week meal, something I could package up and take to work or have ready when I come home from the gym. It’s really more of a winter soup, but it’s cold and rainy and I’m not feeling great, so this is exactly the sort of thing I crave.
The applewood smoked bacon really stands out here and has much less fat than pancetta, which the original recipe called for. Just a couple ounces of pancetta contains around 30 g of fat and when the rest of the soup is so nutritious, it doesn’t make sense to muck it up with fatty fat fat pancetta.
The other change I made was adding extra kale. I threw in 3 big handfuls of it (3 cups worth) because kale is insanely nutrient-rich. It contains high amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Calcium and Iron.
Don’t be put off by the time needed to make this soup (especially soaking the cannellini beans overnight). It is a great weekend project; the results are rewarding and will last a couple days.
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa At Home. Original recipe here. Ina’s recipe served 8 people, so I halved it. It still made a giant pot of soup!
1/4 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
2-3 Tbs. good olive oil, plus extra for serving
6 slices cured applewood smoked bacon, large diced
1 c. chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 c. chopped carrots (2 carrots)
1 c. chopped celery (2-3 stalks)
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
14 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
2-3 c. coarsely chopped kale
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil leaves
3-4 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 c. sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed (*STALE* bread. Mine was not dry enough and got a bit doughy)
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the chopped bacon and cook until browned and crispy. Remove bacon from pan but leave behind a tablespoon or so of the drippings. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. (I prefer my vegetables “al dente” with a little bite to them, especially in this soup that could easily become a bowl full of mush if you overcook the vegetables.)
Add the tomatoes with their puree, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid or chicken stock. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Add the reserved bacon to the pot. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 4 cups. (I did not have any cooking liquid left from the beans so I used all chicken stock.) Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.
All packaged up for the week: