*in my best Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls voice* Picture this, Tuscany 1952, you’re in need of a dish to feed your family and all you’ve got is the minestrone from last night, some stale bread and an old prosciutto bone lying around. What do you do? Make only the most delicious soup imaginable, quite possibly better than that minestrone from the night before.
But seriously, kids, how lovely is it when a great plan comes together. A few pantry ingredients, maybe even some leftovers and a bit of time putzing around the kitchen and voila! Gorgeousness on a plate, or in this case, a bowl. The name itself gives it away with this one – ribollita is Italian for reboiled. Any glamour and cache that this soup might garner from its placement on modern Italian menus is only a recent distinction – the dish has the humble origins of true peasant food. Just as in Brazil, a pot of black beans can be extended for additional eaters with some water and a little more rice, this soup is extended by day-old bread soaking up the rich vegetable broth. A smidge of good quality cheese (which you regular readers know that, for me, is a smattering of locatelli) and you are in like flynn.
There are much fancier versions than this one, but I love this recipe because it’s a weekday charmer. No prosciutto bone here, and a parmesan rind only if you have one around. Black kale (cavolo nero or dinosaur kale) is the star of the show, but can be replaced by any kale or bitter greens you can find. Canned beans and pantry chicken stock speed along the process, and by dicing everything in the food processor saves a hell of a lot of time. In addition, if you leave out the bacon and chicken stock, you’ve got a comforting vegetarian supper on your hands. No cheese and it’s vegan. A warm bowl of love for all sorts of eaters? It doesn’t get any better than that.
2 qts. of stock
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of black kale, ribbed and roughly chopped
1 can of canellini beans
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
sprig of rosemary
sprig of thyme
parmesan rind (optional)
2 tbs. of olive oil
3 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
slices of old, stale bread or toasted ciabatta
Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven on high and add your olive oil. Once it begins to shimmer, toss in your bacon and allow it to crisp up a bit. Add your onions and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook until fragrant. Add your tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and stir to warm through. Lastly, add the stock, parmesan rind and cannelini beans. Allow stock to come to a boil and fold in the black kale. Cook until kale is tender over medium-high heat, about 15-20 minutes.
To serve, place a few slices of ciabatta (or hunks of old bread) on the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle hot soup over the bread and top with grated parmesan.