Ribollita is a hearty Tuscan soup. There are many variations, but most recipes include beans, vegetables and bread. I've, basically, declared it my new favorite comfort food recipe of 2016. I think you'll find that it's a great new soup recipe for you to try out this year ... and one that you'll come back to time and time again once you've tried it.
Mario Batali has a fabulous Ribollita recipe, which I've adapted here slightly based upon personal preference. I had never made any version of Ribollita until this week. (And, frankly, I'm not sure that I had ever heard of it until I recently saw Mario make it on television.)
I was drawn to this recipe for several reasons. It's bitter cold here in Michigan right now and well, soup is warm. Pretty self-explanatory. Secondly, I've always had success with Mario's recipes. (He is thee Mario Batali for pete's sake.) I, also, like that this is a vegetarian soup. My twenty-three year old daughter has been a vegetarian for years and I've come to follow a mostly vegetarian diet most days. This is a pretty healthy soup ... perfect for kicking off the new year. Lastly, the ingredient list is a budget-friendly one. Grab some dried beans, water, a few veggies, a tiny bit of marinara sauce and some bread ... and you've got yourself the makings of a big pot of heavenly soup. (Splurge a little on some real-deal Parmigiano-Reggiano, though ... totally worth it and it really finishes the soup perfectly!)
Serves 4 - 6.
3 cups dried white beans (such as cannellini or great Northern)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling on soup at time of service)
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (plus 1 - 2 more left whole for rubbing on bread at time of service)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 waxy potatoes (red or gold), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
5 - 6 cups reserved bean cooking liquid
3/4 cup basic marinara sauce (good-quality store-bought or homemade)
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 - 4 cups chopped combination of kale and Swiss chard
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Sliced country bread, lightly grilled or toasted
Freshly-grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Soak beans in cold water overnight. Drain and rinse.
Place the soaked beans in a large pot and cover with water. (Recommended water amount is around 7 - 8 cups.) Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to low while simmering beans until tender - about one hour. Stir once or twice during cooking time. (Do not add any salt or other seasonings while cooking beans.)
Drain the beans - reserving cooking liquid. (5 - 6 cups will be needed once soup preparation begins.) Allow beans to cool while continuing to next step. (Spreading beans out onto a large baking sheet pan prevents beans from becoming too mushy while cooling.)
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Stir and cook until slightly softened. Add in potatoes, 2 cups of the cooked beans, 4 cups of the cooking liquid, tomato sauce and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, then add kale and chard. Simmer - uncovered - for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally during this time. Add in 1 - 2 cups remaining reserved cooking liquid as needed while soup simmers. (For thicker soup, 4 - 5 total cups will be enough. For a thinner soup, 5 - 6 total cups may be needed.)
Gently stir in remaining beans. Taste. Season with salt and pepper as desired. (Soup will almost definitely need salt and pepper at this point.)
Rub grilled or toasted bread with peeled garlic cloves. Serve with soup. Top soup with cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
Author's Note: Soup can be served immediately. However, the flavor is improved by allowing the soup to "rest." It is recommended that it be removed from heat, covered and allowed to sit for a minimum of two hours, but up to overnight prior to reheating. If serving the following day, store - once covered - in the refrigerator. At time of service, bring soup to a simmer over medium heat. It may be necessary to add in a little water when reheating if the soup is thicker than you prefer.