09 July 2011

Ribollita - An old Tuscan soup

After many, many, many Asian dishes, today I was hankering for a good old vegetable soup.  Perhaps it's my body telling me I haven't been having enough greens or perhaps just a need for a Western meal.

Ribollita is a very old favourite of mine.  I have been making it for at least eight years now on very regular occasions and particularly during the Australian winter.  Whilst Ribollita is an all vegetable soup, there are times when a man must be fed meat (ie my husband).  In this instance, John is in charge of slicing and frying chorizo sausages which are added to the finished soup.  It gives the soup more weight and a punchier flavour.

Originating from Tuscany during the Middle Ages, Ribollita, known as a dense breaded soup, was considered a peasant's dish because the feudal lords who banquetted without plates or cutlery would use stale bread as plates for their meat.  As you can imagine the juices and flavours of the meat soaked into the bread which was then passed onto the poor servants.  The servants would then toss this bread into a pot with whatever vegetables and herbs were available thereby giving rise to Ribollita.

As with any recipe, it has many variations but it has its staple ingredients such as carrots, cabbage, beans, onions and of course the bread.   Whilst I originally began with a recipe from a book over time it altered according to what was available in my fridge and the supermarkets.

From a health point of view, beans are a great source of fibre and low in fat, cabbage, onions and garlic have antiviral and antibacterial properties, carrots are high in betacarotene which help nourish the liver and digestive system and celery is a natural diuretic.

So without further ado, here is my recipe and please enjoy:


2 T olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tsp of minced garlic
2 celery sticks, washed and chopped
1 large zucchini, diced (do not peel or the zucchini will break down too much)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can of white beans (or whatever is handy, I have used Pinto beans because borlotti was not available)
1 L chicken or vegetable stock
Half a cabbage, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette bread for croutons (optional)


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, garlic, carrot and celery.  Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.  Make sure you stir occasionally or the vegies will burn in the base of the pot.

Add the zucchini and cook another 2 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, cabbage, beans and stock.  Bring to boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Tear the baguette into small chunky pieces.  Add oil and butter in the frying pan and once heated/melted toss in the baguette chunks and fry until the bread is toasted.  Adding the butter to the oil provides a much nicer flavour to the baguette than just oil on its own.  

For a meaty dish, slice 3 chorizo sausages and fry them in a pan, then add them to the finished soup with the pan juices as well.  It adds a delightful flavour to the dish.

Of course a nice bottle of red accompanies this dish superbly.  Bon appetit.

Bubbling away on the cooktop...

Up close and personal...

Finished product. 
It was accompanied by a very nice bottle of Chilean Merlot.