Ribollita - A Tuscan Vegetable Stew

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With the cooler temperatures setting in, I am beginning to crave more soups and less salads. So today I thought it might be good to share my version of Ribollita with you. It is one of my favorite soups and it can easily be altered depending on what you have on hand in your refrigerator.  

Ribollita is traditionally a thick Tuscan vegetable stew that is thickened with day old bread. I prefer to simply use a bit less liquid to keep it nice and thick, but if adding the bread appeals to you, a crusty French bread would do nicely. The word Ribollita in Italian means twice boiled or re-boiled. Hence this was often a leftover minestrone soup to which chunks of bread were added just prior to serving. So switching out different kinds of vegetables or beans would also work just fine.

I often make this soup in the late months of the year because one of the vegetables I like to feature in it is some kind of winter squash. These are still fresh and plentiful in the fall and I typically am also able to find some fresh greens lingering in the garden or at the farmers market to throw in at the end. Oh, and if you are wondering about the “hair” on the butternut squash in the picture above, these were the door prizes from my daughter’s baby shower a few weeks ago. Some had hair like mine, some hats, but all were quite cute for table decorations.

Warming soups and stews, full of fall vegetables such of orange squashes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens are great to begin including in your diet during the autumn months. As we switch from lighter salads and raw foods to these more hearty ingredients it helps to nourish the body and support our immune system for the cooler months ahead. Not only are they internally warming, but they also are easier to digest and just go with the cozy feel of fall in general.

Ribollita Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 of a large fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes (or roughly 3-4 cups chopped fresh)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth 
  • 1 small winter squash, peeled and chopped into 1/4 - 1/2 inch cubes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3 sprigs of fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme or (1 tsp dried)
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 15 ounce can of cooked black beans, rinsed 
  • 1/2 pound of Lacinato Kale, spinach or other dark leafy green
  • Kalamata olives, pitted
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese rinds (optional)
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese, shaved (also optional)
In a large heavy bottomed pot combine olive oil, celery, onion and fennel and sauté over low to medium heat until the vegetables begin to turn color and caramelize. Note that if I didn’t have celery on hand, I’d just add about a 1/4 teaspoon of celery seed instead or do without. However, I do think that the fennel makes the soup, so I’d probably make a trip to the grocery for that. 

 

Next add the garlic and cook a minute or two more as the flavor releases.  Then add the tomatoes, broth and cheese rinds if you are using them, simmering for about 10-15 minutes.  Add squash, wine, lemon zest, oregano, rosemary, pepper flakes, thyme and bay leaves and simmer at a low temperature for an additional 20 minutes or until the squash is tender to prick with a fork. If I’m using fresh oregano and thyme I don’t bother to remove them from the stem. Rather I just throw them into the soup whole, removing them with the bay leaves before adding the remaining ingredients and serving. Their flavor will be released by that time and it saves the hassle of removing them from the stem and chopping them up. 

 

 

When the squash is just about tender, add the beans and bring the soup back up to a simmer before adding your greens and olives and simmering for another 5 minutes. The finished soup is quite colorful, but if you’d like to add a garnish, some shavings of parmesan or Romano cheese would be nice.

Prep time: 20 min - Cook time: 60 min

If you decide to try this, I do hope you enjoy as much as we do! Have a great week!

 

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