Ribollita is a Tuscan soup whose name literally means “reboiled.” Like most Tuscan dishes, the soup has peasant origins, and was originally made by reheating the leftover soup and bread from the day before. As a vegetarian, I lived off of ribollita when I was studying abroad in Florence, and although it’s hard to find in Italian restaurants in the U.S., its simple and forgiving ingredients make it a true pleasure to make.
I have to say that I am always amazed when people tell me that they would “love to eat vegetarian or more healthfully, but it is just too expensive.” Tuscan or French peasant dishes are perfect examples of meals that are delicious, cheap AND healthy. I’ve noted a few ways to dress this dish up or tone it down depending on your budget.
I have to tell you that after we enjoyed this ribollita this weekend, I passed out on the sofa for two hours! I was not surprised when I did some google work and learned that Tuscan white beans (the kind used in this soup) are PACKED with tryptophan, the essential amino acid that’s been called “nature’s prozac” and has been successfully used as a sleep aid. So if you get the Sunday night blues or have a hard time sleeping, this is a great dish to make. In terms of other vitamins and minerals, I used spinach in this ribollita, which is full of magnesium and vitamin B2, both of which are stress-busting (click here to read about how magnesium helps reduce stress).
$: Use cheap olive oil bought in bulk. Day-old bread at the supermarket that’s half off? It’s perfect for this dish! Save the rinds of your parmesan cheese for soups like this – they add a complex flavor without added fat.
$$: Serve with a side salad of radicchio and romaine lettuce with green apples (toss the apples in lemon juice so they don’t turn brown). Squeeze the rest of the juice from the lemon into a small bowl and whisk with some olive oil, salt and pepper for a nice light vinaigrette. For dessert, savor a piece of rich, dark chocolate.
$$$: This pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir, or, of course, a Sangiovese from Chianti. For an appetizer, serve with a cow’s milk cheese, green grapes and Italian Grissini breadsticks (the long, thin crunchy kind). For dessert, indulge in some delicious gelato!
Ribollita (adopted from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, 1 minced and 1 whole
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained
- 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 (3-inch) piece Parmesan rind
- 4 to 6 ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise or 1 loaf, sliced
- Grated Parmesan, for serving
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and stir. Add the spinach, beans, herbs, stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Drizzle the ciabatta halves with olive oil. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub the top of the toasts with the whole garlic clove. Place the toasts in the serving bowls and ladle the soup over the toasts. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.