[20 Feb 2010 | By | 9 Comments]

cabbage from farmer's market

Ribollita (also written Ribolita—with one ‘l’) is a classic Italian vegetable-and-bread soup (or more of a stew?). I have had it multiple times, see it regularly on cafes all over town (I am currently living in Florence, Italy). In fact, I have two favorite ‘stand-up-and-eat’ lunch windows—and one of the best bowls of Ribollita I have ever eaten, came from one such window.

As with ANY Italian recipe, there are as many versions of a dish as there are cooks to cook them. I hear that recipe interpretation is the source of hotly contested debate, antiquated loyalties and age-old disagreements about which is the right recipe for lasagna, ribollita, focaccia, bolognese, ragu… This could provide popcorn-eating entertainment, vein-popping excitement or tears in your soup—depending on which camp you are in.

But seriously. I have wanted to make ribollita for some time, and finally put pen to paper cabbage in the pot. Cabbage you say? That isn’t right. It is according to most recipes; I ogled then commingled recipes from Mario Batali, Barefoot Contessa, Our Italian Table, from Sunday’s Soup, Zoe’s Cuisine, this straightforward version from RootsLiving and La Dolce Bacon (who also uses Parmesan rinds!). And in the end did what cooks do: I personalized it, stamped it, registered MY version as a trademark and called all my friends and family to ascertain their level of loyalty. Okay, that’s not true either. But don’t you just love how recipes evolve, and you can use the combined brilliance of any, all or none of them at any time? I can use what I like, skip a step, add something else, shorten—or lengthen—the cooking time, and pucker my face while trying to recount what was so special about that ‘ribollita-from-the-window.’

Today, this was my ribollita. It was fantastic. I will make it again, though I reserve the right to tweak it, change it, forget something, spice it up or down… and add whatever else is hanging nonchalantly inside my fridge.

1 small can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 T olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
small diced pancetta (optional)
1 small onion (a leek too, if you have one)
cabbage (many use black cabbage, kale, swiss chard…) stems removed, roughly chopped
zucchini (just because I had some… though I didn’t see it in other recipes)
bay leaf (oops, forgot)
red pepper flakes, S&P and Italian herbs
(thyme if you have it)
1/3 cup basic tomato sauce (I put in 3 T tomato paste this round)
1-2 cups water
1-2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
3-4 slices rustic bread (I use my leftover focaccia)
optional: Parmesan rind

ribollitaHeat oil in stockpot; over low add onions, garlic and pancetta for 5 minutes. Then add carrots, celery, zucchini, seasonings for 10 minutes. Add cabbage/kale/greens and give a good mix. Add tomato sauce/paste/canned tomatoes. Let cook 10 minutes. Puree half of white beans (I used a food mill); add puree, beans and stock/water to cover (and rind, if using). Simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1/2 inch cubes of bread (crusts removed if too hard), let simmer 10 more minutes. Ladle and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of your best olive oil (if I would have used kale or black cabbage, it would have added some fantastic color to the dish).

The Dutch in me LOVES Ribollita because it makes use of day-old bread. So efficient, responsible, ingenious. Really this could be called ‘leftover soup,’ or counter-top, kitchen-sink or fridge-raid soup. Leftover potatoes? Some extra spinach? A few stray greens or tomatoes? Toss ’em in. Grab some table vino and call it lunch.

This entry was posted in food., Italian food & wine, recipes, soups and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  • Chiara said (20 February 2010 at 9:18 am):

    I love ribollita. My favorite restaurant in the whole world is a Tuscan trattoria in Milano and they made a great rendition of it there. I really like the Parmesan rind in it, it gives it a great hint of flavor.

  • Kristi Rimkus said (21 February 2010 at 12:34 am):

    This looks absolutely delicious! I’ve saved the recipe. I probably will omit the pancetta, a bit too expensive, but the rest sounds fantastic.

  • janelle (author) said (21 February 2010 at 8:35 am):

    Chiara: mmmmm, Milano. I won’t make it there this time—bummer! I love trying ribollita at different restaurants, its never the same twice!

    Kristi: Last time I omitted the pancetta, added berlotti beans and darker cabbage…

  • Simply Luxurious said (21 February 2010 at 9:56 am):

    Am curious to try this recipe. It is so true how a recipe seems as though it is a living organism that is continually evolving and changing. I’m definitely saving this one. Have a great weekend and week!

  • Dutchness aside said (22 February 2010 at 10:25 am):

    It is great that you utilized a variety of left-over items to make this dish, but ultimately it comes down to taste! And, I must say this looks scrumptious. Add it to my short list of weekend projects. Can’t wait to try it.

  • Krista said (23 February 2010 at 5:08 pm):

    How warming and hearty! I adore soup so much and this combination sounds heavenly. :-)

  • Antonietta said (24 February 2010 at 10:10 am):

    Yay! It looks delicious and hearty, just liek Ribollita should be!

  • janelle said (24 February 2010 at 11:00 am):

    Simply: I love that! I make this soup different each time… perhaps that is what I love most about it;)
    Dutchness: Like Gaffigan making fruitcake;)))
    Krista: It is! I am sorry I hadn’t tried it before… because it will be a regular in my future;).
    Antonietta: No doubt you have tried many rounds of ribollita! Do you have a fave recipe?

  • Seattle Urban Farm update: chickens, cabbage, edible flowers. | Talk of Tomatoes said (7 August 2011 at 1:15 pm):

    […] Chickens, flowers and a little bed. As you may know, we have been in our ‘fixer’ house for just under a year. We are removing reams of bamboo and a long list of invasive plants while conjuring up big plans for our urban farm. This summer I take little plots for planting wherever I can find them: here is a bed of squash, tomatoes, loads of basil and just today I added: radicchio starts and black cabbage seeds (BTW from Italy! Brought them home last week. Black cabbage—cavalo nero—is what Tuscan’s use for their ribollita). […]