Ribollita literally means ‘reboiled’: traditionally this Italian soup was made in large quantities so it could be reheated on subsequent days. It’s fantastic, economical peasant food and proves how humble ingredients – in this case, a few inexpensive veg and some stale bread – can yield truly delicious results. By all means use a couple of tins of cannellini beans rather than dried beans.
If you are using dried beans, drain them after soaking, rinse and then put into a large saucepan with the onion, bay leaf, garlic clove and rosemary. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 5cm, bring to the boil, lower the heat to a bare simmer, partially cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 1–1½ hours. Drain, reserving the liquid. Pulse half of the beans with some of the cooking liquid in a blender or processor until you have a rough purée.
If you are using tinned beans, drain and rinse them well, then mash or blend half of them with a little cold water.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over
a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until softened. Add the carrots, celery and leek and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring. Now add the tomatoes with their juice, the puréed and whole beans, stock, rosemary and thyme, and simmer gently for about 1 hour.
Shred the kale, cavolo nero or cabbage leaves. Add to the soup and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove the sprigs of thyme and rosemary and add some salt and pepper.
To serve, toast the slices of bread until golden, then rub with the garlic and brush with olive oil. Put a slice of bread in the base of each bowl, ladle over the soup and trickle some olive oil on top before serving.
For the beans
- 200g dried cannellini beans, soaked in cold water overnight
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove, bashed
- 1 sprig of rosemary or 2 x 400g tins cannellini beans for the soup
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1–2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 leek, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
- 5–6 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped, or a 400g tin plum tomatoes, roughly chopped, any stalky ends and skin removed
- 800ml vegetable stock
- 1 sprig of rosemary and 1 sprig of thyme, tied together with string
- 300g kale, cavolo nero or Savoy cabbage, tough stalks removed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 slices of slightly stale countrystyle or sourdough bread
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
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