Ribollita (Tuscan Kale and Bean Soup)
This simple but thick and luscious soup is a mainstay of Tuscan cooking and used to be made by re-cooking (ribollire) yesterday’s minestrone and simmering it over stale bread in this second incarnation. I make it all in one go, as do many Italians, but it is even better the next day. It takes a while to make unless you are using already cooked beans, but it is worth the time.
Ribollita calls for a modest list of ingredients and the bread and some good olive oil are important. And it’s extra good if you have some roasted tomatoes to use, but canned is just fine.
Note: The acidity from the tomatoes can prevent your beans from cooking properly and getting tender. This might happen if your beans are quite old (which is sometimes hard to tell). So to be safe you can cook your beans separately and follow the instructions for using cooked beans below.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1 large or two smaller stalks celery (if there are leaves attached include those), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/2-3/4 cup chopped canned, fresh or roasted tomatoes or 1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white beans (that you’ve soaked over night or for at least 4 hours), drained (or you can use 2 1/2 cups already cooked beans as well but you’ll add them to the soup a bit later). Use canellini or navy beans. I’ve also, inauthentically used borlotti beans with great success.
1 very large or 2 smaller bunches Dinosaur kale (also called Tuscan or Lacinato kale) or any kind of kale you have, washed and well chopped (it really is best with Dinosaur kale though)
8 cups water or combination of water and bean cooking liquid if you’re using already (home) cooked beans
2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
Plenty of freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil
4 slices, crusty bread (several days old is fine), toasted and torn into bits
1. Saute the onion, celery and carrot and thyme in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, potatoes and tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes. Add the drained (but not cooked) beans, water and kale and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring everything to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes. If you are using already cooked beans, add them 30 minutes into the cooking time and simmer gently for another 45 minutes. Add pepper and taste and adjust with salt. It will likely need a bit more.
2. Stir in the bits of bread and simmer for 5-7 more minutes until it’s somewhat broken down and has thickened the soup. Serve hot with plenty of good olive oil and more salt and pepper, to taste.