It's a cold, winter day here in Minnesota. The perfect day to make ribollita.
In Chapter 23 of the book, I describe what it was like to make this traditional Tuscan soup with the ladies of San Gusme. Nara, Lina, and Dina were all there - chopping and peeling all of the vegetables together. They were preparing the soup for about 300 people for the local policeman's banquet that was to be held later that week in the square. It took hours to prepare it, but the time flew by as we gossiped and laughed together passing the time. I realized that the tradition of spending time together making the soup was just as important as the actual soup. It was a memory that I will treasure forever. This was one of those special days when I felt like I was truly part of the village. The soup is always finished with a beautiful drizzle of extra virgin olive oil from the area. At this time of year, the new oil is bright green, spicy and peppery. The perfect finish to a hearty soup that will warm you inside and out.
The soup does take some time to make, so I recommend making a double batch and enjoying the leftovers for a few days after you make it. It keeps getting better each day.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 leeks (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
4 stalks of celery (chopped), and it’s okay to also include a few of the celery leaves chopped as well
4 medium carrots (peeled and diced)
4 small zucchini (diced)
4 medium potatoes (peeled and diced)
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans
4 medium tomatoes (diced, seeds removed)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6-8 cups (2 quarts) vegetable stock (Keep warm on the stove next to the soup pot.)
3 cups fresh Tuscan or black kale (chopped, use only the tender leaves, take out the middle stem)
3 cups fresh spinach (chopped, use only the tender leaves, no stems)
½ loaf crusty white bread (sliced)
Olive oil and parmesan cheese for serving
Place the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes. After each vegetable, add a ladle of vegetable stock. Next add the zucchini, kale, and spinach. Add in the remaining broth. Let simmer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Now, add the beans, tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Make the Sfumata (oil infused with aromatic herbs)
1 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic (cut in half)
4 fresh rosemary sprigs (leave intact on the stem)
4-6 sage leaves
4 bay leaves
Place the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf and warm until it starts to simmer. Take off heat and pour the oil over the soup (pour over using a strainer to remove the garlic and aromatic herbs).
Lay out the sliced bread on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven (425 degrees) 5-6 minutes until lightly browned.
Now, layer the bread with the soup in a large, deep casserole dish. Alternate layers of bread and soup until you have used it all. Let sit until ready to eat. After soaking in the soup, the bread dissolves becomes the hearty part of the soup. The longer this sits, the better the taste. You can place this in the refrigerator and take out a portion at a time if you like.
Just before serving, place the soup back in the stock pot and warm again until boiling. If the soup is too thick from the bread, add more water or broth to thin.
Ladle out into soup bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
This soup is delicious after a few days as well. This makes 6-8 servings.
Recipe note: Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or black kale) can be found in the fresh greens area of most grocery stores. It’s important to use only the tender leaves and remove the center stem prior to chopping the kale.