ribollita-inspired vegetable soup
Prep Time: 30 minuted
Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: soup/stew leafy greens beans bread cabbage Italian
- Olive oil
- 1/4 large onion, chopped
- 2 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 small celery rib, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 small icicle radishes, chopped
- A bunch of chard stalks, chopped (left over and/or from ingredient greens below)
- A mix of herbs (e.g., chopped parsley, leaves of thyme, chopped rosemary needles)
- 1/2 cup dry pinto beans, cooked as explained below
- 4 cups homemade light chicken stock, or vegetable alternative
- 1 medium-small cabbage, divided into six wedges and shredded
- Water as needed
- 1/4 lb. fresh fava bean leaves, chopped
- A handful of greens for braised mix (chard, kale, mustard greens, etc.), thick ribs removed where necessary, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper, to taste
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Bread of choice: I baked this rye bread (without flowers but with caraway seeds), because I thought it would go well with the soup (and I was right); slices of country-style bread, possibly Tuscan (saltless) bread, are traditional
Note: the non-leafy vegetables are cut into small pieces, a mix of sliced and diced, while the leafy vegetables are sliced into ribbons. In the list of ingredients I indicate this as "chopped."
Cooking dry beans. The way I cook beans for further use comes from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (Beans with Aromatics). After soaking half a cup of dry beans for several hours or overnight in enough water to cover them by about an inch (I use two cups), empty the whole bowl into a saucepan and add half of a small onion (or a quarter of a medium one), halved, a bay leaf, a small clove of garlic, sliced, and a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley. Bring the water to a lively boil quickly, and keep it there for five minutes, then turn down the heat and let the beans simmer, covered, until they are ready. How long this takes depends on the type of beans and their freshness. Let them cool in their broth, then remove the aromatics and discard them.
Warm olive oil in a soup pot (a terracotta pot is ideal, but I don't have one — yet) and add onion and scallions. Stir to coat and let cook for a few minutes. Add carrot and celery, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add garlic, then radishes and chard stalks (or whatever you want to use here) and finally the herbs. Let cook for a few minutes and in the meantime, mash the beans.
The recipes I have read instruct you to drain half the beans, and set those aside, then to mash the rest with the cooking liquid. I mashed all the beans in their broth, using a potato masher (so the result was not smooth), then added everything to the soup pot.
Next, pour the broth into the pot and then add the cabbage. Pour some water as well, but not quite to cover, since the cabbage will shrink as it cooks. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and cook gently for 50 minutes or so, until the cabbage is tender. Add the leafy greens, bring back to a boil and cook gently for 10 minutes or so, until everything is nice and just perfect in texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can serve the soup at this point, by itself, or ladled in bowls in which you have previously put a layer of thin bread slices. If you do the latter, cover each bowl and keep warm. Let the bread soak up the broth for 15 minutes or so, then serve. In this case, we can call it minestra di pane (bread soup). You can skip this part and go for the ribollita stage.
Put a layer of bread slices in another pot (again here, a terracotta one would be great), and pour soup on it. Depending on how much soup you have, make another layer of bread plus soup. Let the bread soak up the broth for several hours or overnight. When you want to serve the soup, reheat it. If you want a less dense soup, add a bit of water. Gently stir while reheating (this will break the bread), then serve hot with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top.
The soup is excellent in all versions.