Have you ever purchased some of the wonderfully crunchy bread at a specialty bakery? Or perhaps you were so lucky to spend a week in some Tuscany villa rentals with as much Tuscan bread available to you as you can imagine? The bread produced the Tuscan way is very delicious, with its crunchy crust reminding of a cookie and the candid fluffy interior with large holes perfect to be flooded with yummy preserves or Nutella! The downsize to this kind of bread however, is that it goes stale after a few days. Is it really a downsize? As long as you do not preserve it in plastic, as it will just mold, stale Tuscan bread is the basis for wonderful recipes.
It is not uncommon to find stale bread in Tuscan recipes, as daily fresh bread, as early as 60 years ago, used to be a luxury of those living in cities and not all of them. But Tuscan cooking is born of the countryside. Poor sharecroppers had to find a way to use one of the staples of their diet.
Ribollita soup is one of these recipes. The name itself tells an interesting story. Ribollita means “boiled twice”, and this recipe is thought to be born of old household habits. The cauldron sitting on the ambers of the large fireplace would be loaded in the morning with the ingredients, then cook all day while other activities were being carried out. At times fortuitous ingredients were added after several hours to enrich the soup. Often times the soup was enough to last for two days. When reheated it would actually boil again (hence the name). The long cooking time and the reheating mixed up the ingredients in ways otherwise impossible, conveying a wonderful taste to the Ribollita soup, which is otherwise composed of very humble ingredients.
You can easily find the ingredients to make Ribollita at home almost anywhere in the world. The only thing that needs a specialty shop is Tuscan bread. However, the best thing for first-timers preparing this dish would be to actually be vacationing in Italy, especially in nice self-catering properties like Tuscany villas. These homes have fully equipped kitchens and you are sure to easily find all the ingredients you need.
Dried white kidney beans 400 grams
Stale Tuscan Bread 400 grams
Kale 400 grams
White cabbage 700 grams
Swiss chard 300 grams
Two medium potatoes
One spoon of tomato paste
Two garlic cloves
Two celery stalks
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
After softening the beans for 8 hours, cook in abundant water for 3 hours or until tender. Add salt when almost done. Drain the beans and save the water aside. Blend two thirds of the beans, keep the rest aside.
Mince the garlic with the carrot, onion, and celery and stir fry with thyme in a large pan. Dice the potatoes and add them with all the other chopped vegetables. Also add a tablespoon of tomato paste.
Now add the cooking water of the beans and the pureed beans. Cook on low heat for one hour, then add the whole beans and cook five more minutes.
After slicing the bread thinly, add it in the pan and stir it in thoroughly. Remove from heat then add salt pepper and extra virgin olive oil to taste.
Set it aside until cool, then in the fridge overnight. Before serving it, pour in olive oil, then bring it to boil and boil for ten minutes on low heat. Serve adding raw olive oil and a consistent piece of raw red onion resting on the edge of the dish. Enjoy!
Italy is the perfect location to unwind, and Matt often travels there to enjoy the comforts of Tuscany hotels and the beautiful countryside in the region.