A hearty Italian soup with humble origins, my Tuscan Ribollita is made with vegetables and beans and thickened with leftover bread.
What is Ribollita?
Ribollita is a traditional centuries-old Tuscan soup that is made with vegetables and beans and thickened with bread. It is said that the dish originated in the Middle Ages when servants were given leftover scraps of bread.
To make a substantial meal from it, they would boil it in water with whatever inexpensive ingredients they had, such as vegetables and dried beans. And so ribollita was born.
The word “ribollita” actually means “reboiled.” It comes from the fact that traditionally, this soup is made from reboiling leftover vegetable soup the next day with the addition of bread. The process of reboiling the soup thickens it and makes it heartier. It also concentrates the flavors. It's commonly said that ribollita is even better the next day.
Many Italian cooks have their own version of ribollita. Almost all of them contain a mixture of inexpensive vegetables, cannellini beans and bread. While many versions contain cabbage and potatoes, the hallmark of the dish is cavolo negro or “black cabbage,” also known as Tuscan kale.
Tuscan kale, with its deeply wrinkled dark green leaves, has a mild flavor and sturdy texture which stands up well in this soup. It's also packed with nutrients. You can read my post all about the nutritional benefits of kale.
Most of us don’t have two days to make dinner! So I’ve taken a couple of liberties with this recipe to help you get it on the table in under an hour.
First, I use canned beans instead of dried. If you have extra time, you can boil dried beans and then use some of the cooking water in the soup.
Second, I add cubes of firm bread right at the end of the cooking process. This thickens the soup and the bites of bread are delicious as they soak up the flavors of the soup like a sponge.
How to Make Tuscan Ribollita
To make ribollita, first sauté diced onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil with garlic and chili flakes. Then add tomato paste and Tuscan kale and cook until it starts to wilt.
Next, throw in diced tomatoes, stock, thyme, bay leaf, a parmesan rind, and cannelini beans. I like to mash some of the cannelini beans to form a paste before adding it to the pot. This helps thicken the soup.
Let the soup simmer for about 25 minutes until the vegetables soften and then add your bread. As it dissolves into the liquid, it will help thicken the soup even more.
The Secret Ingredient- a Flavor Bomb
What's the secret ingredients that takes this soup to the next level? A parmesan rind. Adding the rind from a block of parmesan cheese is a traditional Italian method of adding flavor to soups.
The next time you buy fresh parmesan cheese, save the rind, which is normally discarded. Wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer to use in dishes like this. It adds an instant boost of flavor!
This vegetarian soup is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dish that’s filling and perfect for a cold winter’s night. It's low in calories and fat and it gets a nice boost of protein and fiber from the beans and vegetables.
Just one word of advice- you may want to double the recipe to make enough for leftovers because it tastes even better the next day!
Looking for more tasty soups and stews? Check out my collection of the best Fall Soup Recipes to get more ideas.
More soups and stews
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for drizzling on top
- 1 large onion, chopped (1 ½ cups)
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (¾ cup)
- 2 celery stalks, chopped (¾ cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ⅛ - ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 bunch (about 10 oz) Tuscan kale, chopped (stems and ribs removed)
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock or water
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 parmesan rind*
- 1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups cubed, firm bread such as ciabatta, whole wheat or multigrain loaf
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a wide based pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and chili flakes and cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until partially softened. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and cook another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the kale and cook until it starts to wilt, 3-4 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, stock (or water), thyme, bay leaf and parmesan rind and raise the heat to bring to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, pour about ¼ of the cannellini beans into a small bowl with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid and mash them together with a fork to form a paste. Pour the paste along with the remaining whole beans into the soup and stir to combine. The mashed beans will help to thicken the soup as it cooks. Simmer the soup with the lid slightly ajar, about 25 minutes until the vegetables are softened but still al dente. Add the bread and simmer another 5-7 minutes, partially covered. The bread will start to dissolve into the soup and thicken it further.
- Before serving, remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parmesan rind. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the ribollita into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
KellyRae | Healthy.Happy.Smart. says
Interesting - never knew the meaning of ribollita! Looks delicious! I discovered you through pinterest. 🙂
Made this for supper tonight. Delicious! My husband couldn't get enough of it! Didn't have any fresh thyme so replaced with oregano which seemed to work fine. Will definitely make again.
That's great, I'm so glad you both liked it! Thanks for letting me know!
This is one of my favorite recipes. I use extra veggies if they're on hand (a savoy cabbage head was excellent), extra garlic (because I always do), and an extra Parmesan cheese rind (and then there's no need for cheese on top). But those are just my extra touches. The recipe is incredible as is.
Thank you for your comments!
Laura Janelli| Chef Laura at Home says
Love this hearty vegetarian recipe!
Lisa @ Lisa's Dinnertime Dish says
This sounds fantastic! It would be a great hearty meal on a cold day!
The Foodie Physician says
I'm so happy to hear you liked the recipe (and the kale)!!! It's cold here In NYC too- perfect weather for a bowl of Ribollita!
Just made it tonight and it was delish! it's been really chilly here in SF and while it was so tasty tonight, I cant wait to eat it tomorrow! it was my first time using kale and it was great. Thanks Sonali - love the recipe!!!
The Foodie Physician says
Congratulations, May!!! Yes, this would freeze really well but you're right- I would freeze it without the bread pieces and add the bread to the soup when you're reheating it. By the way, loaves of bread freeze very well so if you have a lot of bread, you can freeze that too! Let me know how it goes if you try it!
This looks delicious! Am trying to "nest" in preparation for the winter arrival of our first and want to make lots of stuff to freeze...Sonali, does this freeze well? I imagine you can do it but without the cubes of bread?
Looks beautiful! I Stumbled this post.
The Foodie Physician says
That sounds great- I think a little pancetta would be a good choice too!
looks delicious! maybe add a little turkey sausage for the non-veg days?
Great hearty meal, especially for the colder weather. Vegetarian friendly.
This looks great! I'm definitely going to try it.