Ribolitta means “reboiled’ in Italian, and was a Tuscan peasant’s way of using leftover soup, adding bread and making it into a full meal. It’s brilliant for using winter greens like cabbage, kale or chard and perfect for times when you just want a one-pot meal. It’s chunky, and doesn’t need pureeing. As long as you have a few store cupboard basics, plus some aromatics in your fridge, you are good to go. If you have any cooked beans on hand, use those, else tinned beans are fine.
I strongly recommend stocking sourdough bread in your freezer. It’s perfect for adding a bit of heft to the soup, by way of croutons. Barring that, you can always add a handful of pasta to the soup, making it more a like a minestrone, but to my mind the addition of the crunchy sourdough croutons is what makes this soup special.
Traditionally, the bread would be adding without toasting, but I think it’s nicer to have it toasted so that it’s partly soft and partly crunchy as you eat it. Although quantities of ingredients are provided in the recipe, when I cook it, I just eyeball it. Tuscan kale or cavalo nero is the ideal, but any type of kale would work. The addition of pancetta is the Italian way of adding “Umami” to a dish. Omit if you are vegetarian, and use veggie stock.
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, the pepper, and red pepper flakes and a dash of salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Add the tomato paste and fry for 2-3 minutes. It might start catching at the bottom of the pan, and that's fine as the "fond" it creates will add lots of flavour. Add the tinned tomatoes, the greens, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7-8 minutes.
Drain the tinned beans and rinse them. Use the back of fork and mash them lightly and then add to the soup.
Add the stock and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile toast the sourdough and cut into largish chunks.
Once the soup is done, taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed. Serve hot in large bowls, scatter the sourdough croutons, and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese. Finish off by drizzling with good olive oil.
- If you don’t have pancetta or bacon, or don’t eat pork, use 3-4 anchovies instead. The flavour will be different, but equally delicious.
- This soup is traditionally made with kale and cabbage, but any type of greens is fine. Swiss chard or winter greens can be used too.