Ribollita is one of the most famous typical Tuscan dishes. Not a soup, but a soup. in the Tuscan sense of the term, that is, bread soaked in a brothy mixture.
In the case of ribollita, in the past this “brothy mixture” was part of the many soups used in Tuscan families: beans, black cabbage, cabbage, potatoes and the like. That is to say, the ingredients of ribollita varied from family to family depending on the production of the family gardens, but also based on personal habits and tastes. Furthermore, within the same families the ingredients obviously also varied depending on the season.
What unified this variety of soups was the fact that during the busiest periods the field absorbed the work of everyone, even the housewives. Who, to reduce the time “wasted” in the kitchen, prepared soup in sufficient quantities for two or three days. If necessary It was then reheated (reboiled) to soak the bread. .
Even today it is difficult to eat a ribollita that is completely the same as another. The only ingredients common to all are stale bread, beans and black cabbage.. For the rest, there are those who make it with potatoes and those who don’t, those who make it with tomatoes and those who don’t, those who make it with spinach and those who make it with chard, zucchini, leeks or other vegetables. Not to mention the aromas!
The need to bring some order to the chaos of ribollita, if only for the benefit of food and wine tourism in Tuscany, is quite recent. In particular (after research, interviews, experiments and endless discussions), on May 24, 2001 the Tuscan representatives of the Italian Academy of Cuisine had the recipe for authentic Tuscan ribollita DOC. Which is what you can read in the recipe below.
Therefore, after the long introduction made, it would seem that there are no recommendations to make. Each one makes their own ribollita. Just add stale bread, broth, beans, black cabbage and many other vegetables and it will always be boiled.
It’s really not like that. Otherwise, in Tuscany there would be no restaurants or chefs famous for their perfect ribollita. And since I have personally frequented Tuscany throughout my life (for 20 years I also had a house in the province of Siena), I will give you some advice shared with many Tuscan restaurateurs.
CONSISTENCY: ribollita is not a liquid soup, it should have a very dense consistency.
POTATOES: they must be completely dissolved in the soup, so few and cut into small pieces
BEANS: They should be the Toscanelli or the Cannellini, which are practically the same in shape and pale color. However, I must say that in restaurants and trattorias in Florence and Siena I have many times eaten ribollita made with other beans, often borlotti. Many people do it but no one admits it: it’s always “just this time”, “it was a coincidence”!
Important: give preference to dried beans, even when there are new ones. The taste is not the same.
CHEESE: not Cheese. Why not? Why not and that’s it, there’s no reason: because the “experts” say so. In my case the expert was Mrs. Lina from Abbadia San Salvatore, who added that this was not the case even though in Maremma they made ribollita with pecorino. From what is clear that in Tuscany it is better never to take a position regarding traditional recipes, because those in the next town surely see it very differently from us
TOMATO: The registered recipe includes a couple of peeled tomatoes. But it seems that the point (are they needed or not? If so, concentrated or peeled?) remains controversial. In our recipe we opted for the concentrate because it is what we find most frequently in Tuscany.
FLAVORS: The most traditional one is pepolino, the dialect name for thyme. For the rest, there are no precise indications, neither in the recipe deposited by the Italian Cooking Academy, nor in the oldest traditional recipes. Like, for example, the version published by Pellegrino Artusi, in his famous recipe book of 1891, under the name “Tuscan lean peasant soup” (this is recipe no. 58).
But in Tuscany “without indication” means space for the imagination. Thus, even in famous restaurants and in many recipe books, in addition to thyme, rosemary or sage is usually found. And in some cases even basil.
They deserve a separate discussion. ANIMAL FATSThat They are in the registered recipe. And so, to answer the question, in theory “real” ribollita should not be a vegetarian dish.
In practice, it is necessary to point out that there are many (perhaps most) vegetarian ribollita recipes, that is, without any type of animal fat.
That said, the only animal fat included in the original recipe is rigatinous bark. It is a typical Tuscan product very similar to common bacon, only leaner and often flavored with garlic and wild fennel. It is easily found… in Tuscany. But since we also give the recipe to the inhabitants of Canicattì and Tarvisio… regular bacon is obviously fine. That it is found everywhere and that what we indicate in the recipe is no coincidence.
- 200 g hard (or toasted) homemade black bread, cut into slices
- 200 g dried cannellini beans
- 60 grams of bacon
- 200 g black cabbage leaves, ribs removed
- 1 potato
- 100 g of chard
- 350 g kale leaves
- tomato concentrate
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 spring onion
- ½ stick of celery
- 1 carrot
- Thyme (pepolino in Tuscan dialect)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Soak the beans for 12 hours and then cook them thoroughly in 1.5 liters of cold, lightly salted water. With a slotted spoon, remove about half of the beans and set them aside, while using a fork, mash the other half in the same cooking water.
- Make a mixture of all the herbs: onion, chives, garlic, celery and carrot.
- Pour 6 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan and fry the diced bacon very gently. Then add the chopped herbs, complete with a sprig of thyme and sauté for 10 minutes.
- Peel and cut the potato into pieces, chop the black cabbage leaves, cabbage and chard into small pieces and add everything to the pan with the chopped herbs. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste dissolved in a saucepan of boiling water, mix, cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Now pour all the cooking water from the beans (including the crushed beans) into the saucepan with the vegetables, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir several times and if necessary add a little more boiling water. Keep in mind that in the end the soup should not be liquid, but rather brothy enough to soak the bread well.
- Finally, about 5 minutes before removing from the heat, add the cooked beans that were left whole and season with salt.
- Let the ribollita sit for as long as you can: ideally overnight or even a whole day. When serving, distribute the bread in a bowl (or individual plates) and pour the soup on top after having “boiled” it for 5-10 minutes. Serve it with a splash of raw oil, without adding cheese
[testi di Valter Cirillo]
Brief tips from the sommelier Ilaria Lombardo (@Ilarietta77) on how to drink in moderation but well, combining regional wines and dishes in the best way
* * * * *
Versatile dish due to the variability of the foods that make it up and that I can only recommend to accompany. Classic Chianti Dogcthe one that distinguishes the bottles with the black rooster, historical symbol of the ancient Military League of Chianti.
Red wines produced between the provinces of Florence and Siena, only with Sangiovese grapes; Intense ruby red in color and notes of blackberry and cherry, tobacco and vanilla.
With each turn of the glass it will give you increasingly different and surprising notes that harmonize perfectly with the ribollita, leaving you with a velvety and elegant sensation in your mouth.
Choose a Chianti Classico if you are approaching this wine for the first time, but if you already know it, go directly to the Riserva.
Try it at a temperature of 16°-18°C and above all, open the bottle for a couple of hours to allow the wine to oxygenate and release the richness of aromas that make it one of the most appreciated wines in the world.