Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ribollita and Vegetable Soup

I don't know about you, but my vegetable garden is looking pretty raggedy in these last days of summer. That is, except for the swiss chard and Tuscan kale. They're the champions of the garden - still going strong and perfect for vegetable soup and ribollita. For the record, the photo above isn't vegetable soup - it's ribollita, an Italian word that means re-boiled.  The first time I ordered ribollita in Italy, I was surprised to be served something that was more of a thick, vegetable stew than a liquidy soup. But that's what it's meant to be. In an attempt to use every morsel and not waste anything, thrifty Italians took leftover bread and added it to the previous day's vegetable soup to make something even more hearty. It's a classic recipe from the region of Tuscany, whose landscapes never fail to enchant.

It's also one of the easiest and best ways to use up some of those delicious and nutritious fall vegetables you might still have in your garden. Here are the basic ingredients for my soup, whether it's vegetable soup or ribollita. You can use your imagination and add other ingredients if you like. If you've got a leftover parmigiano reggiano rind, throw that in. I always have a few that I've saved in the freezer.
Once the pot has simmered for a while, add the beans and it should look like this - a hearty and soul-warming soup to ward off the chill from a brisk fall day. Leftovers freeze well too, so don't worry about making too much.
Here it is served as a brothy vegetable soup.
And here it is as ribollita, after adding some bread and reheating. Traditional ribollita is much thicker than this, and you can practically have a spoon standing on end inside a deep bowl of it, but this was prepared immediately following the vegetable soup. If you let the bread soak overnight and reheat the next day, it attains the thicker consistency.

Vegetable Soup/Ribollita

Printable recipe here

This isn't like making a cake where you have to be exact in the quantities, so feel free to change or add/subtract whatever ingredients and quantities you prefer.

1 large onion, minced

6 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

3 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

swiss chard, about 20 leaves chopped and stalks sliced

Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, dinosaur kale (same thing) - about 16 -20 leaves, chopped up

1/2 savoy cabbage, chopped up

2 small zucchini, chopped

8-10 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped (canned is fine and you can add more if you like a stronger tomato flavor)

2 14-ounce cannellini beans

1 parmesan cheese rind

16 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

salt, pepper

fresh or dried thyme and basil as you like

a hearty, stale bread for ribollita

olive oil to drizzle on top

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until limp. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the beans and simmer for about a half hour. Add the beans and cook another half hour. Serve immediately as vegetable soup with some parmesan sprinkled on top. Or layer some soup and bread in a bowl or pot and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat the next day and you've got ribollita. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.


  1. Yummy! This comforting and healthy soup must taste really good. It contains so many ingredients I love.



  2. The goal is to try ribollita in Tuscany but until then....

  3. Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of ribollita, perfect for the cooler weather. I'm smiling just looking at that huge pot of yummy goodness!

  4. I like both versions.
    Looking mighty tasty!

    Congrats on winning the giveaway on Christo's blog. I like that idea of transferring a photo to canvas.

  5. I had so many of this in Tuscany before I discovered I have to eat gluten-free.....

  6. One of my favorite soups! I am on a 21 day vegan diet so I'd leave out the cheese right now, but bring on the bread filled version! :)

  7. I love making soups...this is a good one.

  8. I really like your vegetable soup *O*!

  9. This is one of my favorite fall and wintertime soups. I make it all the time sometimes adding a bit of pancetta. I too, prefer it on the soupy side.

  10. I make a soup very much like this minus the cabbage. One interesting technique that I think gives it a twist is to use the hand held mixer (that skinny tool w/ a tiny blade at the end). I mix 1/4 of the soup to give it a creamy consistency but leaves plenty of hearty chunks. Love the photo of the ingredients

  11. I was sitting at my desk and wondering what to cook for dinner tonight...without having to run out to the store. What we do have left in the garden is kale, carrots and greenbeans, can of tomatoes in the cupboard along with a can of beans and left over bread from yesterday...thank you Linda...ribollita it is!!

  12. This looks so delicious Linda! It's one of my favorite soups. So comforting and filling.

    I'll definitely put it in the line-up as the weather turns a little cooler here. Thanks for sharing. xo~m.

  13. I made a big pot of pasta fagiola last weekend, and we are happily still eating it. It is the perfect weather for such hearty fare - love your ribollita and I love your photo of your garden veggies and the end piece of Parmesan, which adds so much flavor.

  14. This soup is absolutely beautiful, I'm going to make it this week.

  15. I love riboliita and yours looks scrumptious!

  16. Linda che ricetta fantastica! la ribollita è un piatto veramente tradizionale e sei stata bravissima, complimenti anche per le foto, è bellissimo passare a visitare il tuo blog ! un bacione e buon weekend...

  17. Delicious! I wish I had a bowl right now!!

  18. I am bookmarking this for my first soup of the season......it's still too hot and humid for me to think of soup, this is stick to your ribs good! Hey, where did the sun go?????

  19. And when I return to chilly MN, this is on my list. I got whiffs and aromas in a small street....

  20. Ribolitta is a very comforting food. The last time I had one was when I went to visit a friend of mine in Italy. I can totally make this here in London and I can't wait.

  21. This looks absolutely amazing...comfort food at its best!

  22. Linda I made this soup Saturday in preparation of a college visit to see my twins. I started it in my large stock pot but quickly realized I had to transfer the contents to my largest 12 qt pot. It was so delicious and made a ton of servings. I even froze more portions. Hope it's okay to freeze. The day old bread and grated cheese brings it over the top fantastic! And I learned how to use new greens. Thank you! I look so forward to all of your recipes that you post whether your own or ones you bring to our attention from others.

  23. Dena - Definitely it freezes. I do it each time I make it. It does lose some of the texture, especially the zucchini, but it's still delicious.