Ribollita is the name of the famous Tuscan soup, a traditional Italian recipe from the cities of Florence, Arezzo and Pisa.
“Ribollita” means “reboiled”, that is, you cook it once, then let it rest for a couple of hours, then cook it again by reboiling it.
It’s a dense, rich soup made with stale bread and winter vegetables such as kale (cavolo nero) and cannellini beans. Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, carrots and potatoes complete the dish.
Ribollita is a recipe to be prepared slowly, taking the necessary time to allow all the ingredients to combine perfectly.
A couple of hours of cooking and patient waiting for the necessary resting time will be rewarded by the incomparable taste of these simple, healthy dishes.
Each region has its own traditional recipes, but Tuscan Ribollita is certainly the most famous stale bread recipe.
Warm and nutritious, it’s the ideal comfort food to eat at home on the coldest of evenings.
Now let’s see how to make Ribollita Soup, the authentic Italian recipe!
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How to Make Authentic Ribollita Soup
PLEASE NOTE: If you are using fresh dried cannellini beans, the preparation time does NOT include the soaking and cooking time. Allow 12 hours for soaking and about 1 hour for cooking.
- Prep Time: 40 Min
- Cook Time: 2 Hours
- Rest Time: 2 Hours
- Servings: 6
- 400 g (14 oz) of dried cannellini beans or 800 g (1 3/4 pounds) of canned cannellini beans.
- 300 g (about 10 oz) of stale bread. In Italy, we use Tuscan ciabatta bread, which is traditionally salt-free.
- 400 g (14 oz) of cavolo nero (Dino Kale)
- 250 g (9 oz) of savoy cabbage or green cabbage
- 250 g (about 10 oz) of Swiss chard
- 250 g (about 10 oz) of potatoes (1 medium potato or 2 small potatoes)
- 180 g (6,4 0z) of peeled tomatoes
- 1 large onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 2 springs of fresh thyme
- about 2 liters (8 1/2 cups) of vegetable broth or hot bean cooking water (the kind you get when using dried cannellini beans)
- 70 g (5 tablespoons) of extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
What You May Need: Kitchen Tools and Equipment
You will need an immersion blender to cream some of the cannellini beans.
Then you need a large pot with high sides and a lid. Traditionally we use a Terracotta pot, which retains heat and cooks more evenly. This item is also very beautiful, decorates the kitchen and can make a nice gift. Even an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven will do the trick.
To serve Ribollita , we recommend a set of Made in Italy Hand Painted Rustic Dishes. Check out this beautiful set of plates that will beautify your table and amaze your guests!
Step 1) – DRIED BEANS – This recipe calls for dried cannellini beans. If you are using this ingredient, soak the dried cannellini beans in plenty of cold water the night before.
Once the beans are tender, drain and cook in at least 3 liters (12 3/4 cups) of water – scented with a sprig of rosemary – over medium-low heat for at least 1 hour.
Then drain the beans, saving the cooking water. Keep half the beans whole and puree the other half with an immersion blender. Set aside.
CANNED BEANS – If using canned beans, remove the liquid and rinse under cold water. Blend half of them and set aside.
Step 2) – On a cutting board, chop the onion, carrot and celery into small pieces.
Then peel the potato and cut it into fairly large pieces.
Step 3) – Wash and slice the cabbage, chard and kale.
Place the peeled tomatoes in a bowl with their juice and mash with a fork. Set aside.
Step 4) – In a large saucepan, saute the carrot, onion, and celery with 4 tablespoons of EVO oil over medium heat for about 1 minute.
Then add the potatoes and a sprig of thyme and rosemary. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
Finally, add the tomatoes.
Step 5) – Stir and cook over medium heat for about two minutes. Then add the cabbage, chard, and kale.
At this point, add 2 liters (8 1/2 cups) of bean cooking water (or vegetable broth if using canned beans).
Step 6) – Cover and cook on a low heat for about 2 hours. If the ribollita soup gets too dry, add a ladle of hot water or hot vegetable broth.
After about 2 hours, the soup will be cooked and the vegetables will be soft. At this point, add the cream of beans and stir.
Step 7) – Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add the whole beans that have been kept aside.
After another 10 minutes or so, season with salt and pepper, stir and remove from heat.
The ribollita soup is almost ready.
Step 8) – Cut the stale bread into large slices or pieces.
Now take a pot or high-sided casserole that is larger than the one that holds the vegetable soup.
Place the stale bread slices on the bottom and add a few ladles of soup.
Step 9) – Repeat adding a layer of bread and a layer of soup until the pot is full.
Allow to cool at room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
PLEASE NOTE: This time in the refrigerator is necessary to allow the bread to absorb all the liquid from the soup and to give the ribollita its typical thick consistency.
At the end of this time, take the pot. The bread will have absorbed the soup and will be completely melted. The soup will be semi-solid.
Return to the heat and bring to a boil.
This is the “reboiling” step that gives the dish its name: “ribollita” means “reboiled”
Cook again over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Season with the thyme leaves. Add more salt and pepper if necessary!
Ribollita is now ready! Serve hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
How to Store Ribollita
Ribollita can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.
Can I Freeze Ribollita?
If you have used all the fresh ingredients, yes! you can freeze it.
In this case, however, we recommend that you freeze it before making the layers with the bread.
Defrost in the refrigerator the day before. Slightly reheat it and make the layers with the bread. Let it cook for 15 minutes and serve.
To Make Ribollita, What Kind of Bread Should I Use?
The perfect bread to use for ribollita is the typical Tuscan “sciocco” bread, which means “without salt”. In Italy, we use this bread to make ribollita when it’s stale.
The famous and unmistakable Tuscan bread is made with type “0” wheat flour, sourdough and water, following a specific production process.
In Tuscany, the art of bread-making is very ancient and is linked to the cultivation of soft wheat in the vast plains of the Arno and Tiber valleys and in the vast hills and plateaus of the Apennines.
It’s therefore extremely difficult to find this bread elsewhere, especially abroad.
This Tuscan bread can be substituted for a loaf of classic thick crust bread, preferably soft wheat and obviously stale. The crumb should be dense and firm.
Try our recipe for homemade Italian crusty bread. You can make it without salt. Let it get stale and use it to make the authentic ribollita recipe!
Bread Without Salt: A Tuscan Legend
Some believe that this bread is salt-free to counteract the great savoriness of Tuscan cured meats and, in general, the robust flavors of the local cuisine.
One legend, however, tells of an ancient rivalry between the maritime republic of Pisa and Florence.
It seems that in the 12th century, salt had become exorbitantly expensive, and the Pisans raised the price for their rival city.
But the Florentines, not to be blackmailed, responded by producing a bread without salt that has since become a symbol.
Strong territoriality is one of the elements that have made this bread unique.
What is Cavolo Nero?
The main ingredient in Ribollita is undoubtedly Cavolo Nero. Also known as dinosaur kale or dino kale, it’s a dark green leafy vegetable. Popular in Italian cuisine, it’s also called Tuscan kale or Cavolo Nero.
Its flavor is clear. It’s strong, aromatic, slightly bitter and reminiscent of “earthy” notes.
The name of this vegetable comes from its very dark green color with almost black reflections.
Cavolo Nero is the basis of many recipes in our culinary tradition. You can also try it quickly and easily sautéed and served as a side dish to meat and fish dishes.
Kale is a real superfood for the colder months of the year. It’s a vegetable rich in minerals and vitamins, many of which have antioxidant properties.
Authentic ribollita recipe calls for Tuscan kale that has been exposed to winter frost before harvesting. The frost makes the leaves more tender and tasty.
Ribollita: Some Variants
Variations of ribollita soup mainly concern the choice of vegetables.
Apart from cannellini beans and cavolo nero, which are indispensable ingredients, the vegetables often vary.
Many do without potatoes and tomatoes.
Others use leeks, zucchini and peas.
A version with spinach and chili peppers is also popular.
In some areas of Tuscany, they toast the slices of bread and rub them with a clove of garlic before making the layers of bread and soup.
There are also variations where they add some animal ingredients during cooking, such as pork rind or pancetta.
These ingredients make the ribollita richer and more flavorful.
Another interesting variation is baked ribollita, which you can make with the addition of raw onions.
Instead of cooking the soup the next day, place it in a baking dish and top with a layer of sliced raw onions.
Add a drizzle of oil and bake at 200°C (390°F) until the onion is golden on the surface.
The origins of the ribollita recipe are very ancient, so much so that in the Middle Ages there was a type of soup that can be considered the direct ancestor of the ribollita we know today.
In the Middle Ages, wealthy lords would have their meat served on unleavened bread. They would then give the remaining bread to their servants. The servants would boil it and add whatever ingredients they could find: herbs, vegetables, legumes, and cabbage.
In the following days, they would boil the soup again. This is where the name of this soup comes from: Ribollita that means Reboiled.
According to tradition, the peasants used to prepare Ribollita on Fridays, when religion and poverty dictated eating “di magro” (without meat).
With a few simple ingredients, a family of poor people could eat for several days.
Like many traditional recipes, ribollita was born in peasant kitchens and then spread throughout the world as a symbol of Tuscan cuisine.
It seems likely that the name “ribollita” appeared later and came from the popular language.
In fact, in the annals of cooking, this recipe was known as “Zuppa di Magro Toscana dei Contadini” (Tuscan Farmer’s Lean Soup) and this is how Pellegrino Artusi defined it in his famous cookbook.
Sources from the 16th century attest to the existence of a soup made with stale bread and dino kale (cavolo nero). But the name “ribollita” does not appear.
The name of the recipe comes from Giovanni Del Turco, composer of madrigals and culinary expert at the court of Cosimo II de’ Medici.