Ribollita Hearty Tuscan Bread Soup Recipe

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

Ribollita is a typical Tuscan winter soup that is quite nutritious and great at warming you up on chilly days. It is a semi-solid soup prepared with black cabbage and beans.

ribollita tuscan soup recipe in a dish

Ribollita literally translates to “boiled a second time.” Thus, as the name implies, real ribollita must be cooked twice if it is going to be considered traditional. The more the soup is cooked, the tastier it becomes.

Ribollita is part of a group of earthy Tuscan soups like acquacotta and pancotto.

Ribollita has peasant origins, with similar earlier versions of bread and vegetable soups that in times past were common among the poor of Tuscany. It was particularly popular in Pisa, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. As is common for peasant dishes, there is no “exact” recipe for ribollita, however there are several key ingredients that create the unmistakable foundation for this delicious dish. These include black cabbage (Tuscan curly black kale), cannellini white beans, and stale Tuscan bread.

Despite there being no “right” recipe, we would like to share our favorite ribollita recipe and then invite you to make changes, additions and improvements, as this centuries old dish continues to change and grow with us in modern times.

The most important thing to have on hand is a knife for chopping and a big soup pot.

  • wooden spoon
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • food processor (optional)
  • soup pot, large dutch oven or slow cooker (optional)
  • soup tureen with lid

From start to finish you can have this soup on the table in under 1.5 hours and you will most likely have leftovers to reheat the next day for lunch!

Ingredients

You might have to head to the store for this one, but perhaps not because kale has gotten so popular lately that there is a chance you will have some in your fridge. The list is long but the ingredients are all inexpensive, easy to find and delicious when combined.

  • Celery (1 stick) – wash, remove any strings and chop very finely to use to create the “soffritto” base of the soup.
  • Onion (1) – any color of onion will do, our preference is for a mild golden onion chopped very finely.
  • Carrots (400 grams) – a super important part of the soffritto is the carrot. It should be chopped very finely, you can even use a food processor and put the celery, onion and carrot together and blend into a very fine mixture without turning it into mush.
  • Tuscan kale (300 grams) – also called Tuscan cabbage or black kale, this is the curly dark kind with lots of texture on the leaves.
  • Savoy cabbage (1 small head) – rinsed and thinly sliced.
  • Cannellini beans (500 grams) – use cooked, canned cannellini beans or another small, mild-flavored white bean.
  • Potatoes (500 grams) – any kind of potato is fine for this recipe, chopped into smallish cubes.
  • Peas (200 grams) – frozen peas have the best flavor and color after fresh peas and can be added directly to the recipe without defrosting.
  • Zucchini (4-5 medium size) – dark or light-skinned zucchini is fine, just be sure to remove the seeds if they are large or there is extra flesh around them.
  • Tuscan bread (500 grams) – besides being from Tuscany, the main characteristic of this bread is that it doesn’t have salt. The recipe calls for day-old bread that is dry and stale and will absorb less moisture and stay intact when immersed in the soup.
  • Tomato puree (300 grams) – this can be substituted with 3 peeled and diced tomatoes or a very small can of canned tomatoes.
  • Fresh parsley (as desired) – feel free to add your own favorite herbs such as bay leaf.
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for soffritto and for drizzling) – the absolute queen of the Italian kitchen, you will need some seriously good extra virgin olive oil and don’t forget to drizzle it on top.
  • Kosher salt (as needed) – you can use to taste.
  • Black pepper (as desired) – add pepper or even crushed red pepper flakes if you would like something a bit spicier.
  • Parmesan cheese + Parmesan rind (optional) – some people like to add a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese on top. Others like to add the Parmesan rind, which has been cleaned, directly into the hot soup so that it melts.

How to make ribollita step-by-step

Whip up a rich and hearty meatless dinner tonight straight from the Tuscan peasant kitchen. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to make it at home.

Cut the onion, celery, and carrots into small pieces to make the “soffritto” base for the soup.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery, and carrots over medium heat (photo 3) once softened, add the black kale and the savoy cabbage (photo 4).

As soon as the cabbage begins to cook, add the tomato puree or peeled tomatoes (photo 5), then the potatoes, chopped zucchini, and peas (photo 6).

Now add the cannellini beans (photo 7) and add salt, and black pepper, and adjust the seasoning as desired such as parsley, fresh thyme, bay leaf, (photo 8) and cook stirring occasionally over low heat for about 1 hour, then turn off.

Slice the day-old bread into thin slices. Place a layer of bread in the bottom of a soup tureen or a large deep bowl (photo 9). Then alternate between pouring the cooked vegetables and a layer of bread until you have filled the tureen (photo 10). You can remove the bay leaves if you added them.

Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

After resting, the soup is ready to serve. Remove a portion of the soup and serve in individual bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Don’t forget to add a drizzle of olive oil before eating this incredible comfort food.

Expert tips for the perfect ribollita

  • Use stale bread. While it may seem counterintuitive that day old bread is better than fresh bread, at least for this recipe it is certainly the case. Be sure to use a crusty, bread that is very dry, you can also lightly toast it before using it in this recipe if isn’t quite old enough. If the bread is too fresh it will be mushy and not hold up in the soup.
  • Puree part of the beans. Some recipes call for mashing or pureeing the beans or doing half pureed beans and the remaining whole beans. This will give the soup a nice, creamy texture.

Variations of ribollita

  • Use dried beans. Instead of starting with already cooked beans you can start with dry beans, you will need 250 grams. You will need to start by soaking them overnight. Then you should rinse them, but them in a pot covered completely by water and cook until soft. You can drain and add to your soup at the same time you would add canned beans.
  • Get spicy. While not typically spicy, if you are a lover of all things hot, you can add some crushed red pepper flakes or a red pepper while cooking for a spicy variation.
  • Get garlicky! Garlic lovers usually want to put it everywhere, and it actually is quite a tasty addition to ribollita so feel free to add it. We like to finely mince a clove or two and add it to the carrots and celery mixture when it is almost done sauteing.

Try other soup recipes

FAQs

How should I store and reheat ribollita?

This soup is really great reheated the next day. We recommend storing the soup in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. It is best stored without the bread, so you can remove and toss any remnants of bread before storing and then add new stale bread slices before serving the next time.

What is the history of ribollita?

Ribollita is a true symbol of “poor” Tuscan cuisine. The predecessor to the modern ribollita recipe was already popular during the Middle Ages. At the time, noblemen had meat served over unleavened bread for meals which was then given to the servants who boiled the leftovers with whatever additional ingredients were available from the garden.  These usually included herbs and vegetables such as celery, carrots, and cabbage. The soup was reheated and consumed over the following days. Today the recipe has been modernized and become a true symbol of Tuscan cuisine.

What is soffritto?

Soffritto is an Italian word that means “lightly fried”. It refers to the cooking process of finely chopping onion, carrot and celery and then sauteing the mixture in olive oil for several minutes and then using this as the base for sauces and soups to add depth and flavor to the dish.

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ribollita tuscan soup recipe in a dish
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Ribollita Recipe

A delicious hearty Tuscan soup filled with vegetables, cannellini beans, and Tuscan bread to fill you up on a cold winter’s day.
Author:
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • Wooden spoon
  • Sharp Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • food processor (optional)
  • soup pot, large dutch oven or slow cooker (optional)
  • soup tureen with lid

Ingredients 

  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 onion
  • 300 grams black Tuscan kale
  • 400 grams carrots
  • extra virgin olive oil (for soffritto + drizzling)
  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 500 grams cannellini beans (canned)
  • 500 grams potatoes
  • 200 grams peas
  • 4-5 zucchinis (medium size)
  • 500 grams stale Tuscan bread
  • 300 grams tomato puree or 3 peeled tomatoes
  • Fresh parsley (as desired)
  • salt
  • black pepper

Instructions

  • Cut the onion, celery, and carrots into very small pieces to make the “soffritto” base for the soup.
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and carrots over medium heat Once softened, add the black kale and the savoy cabbage.
  • As soon as the cabbage begins to to cook, add the tomato puree, canned tomatoes or peeled tomatoes, then potatoes, chopped zucchini and peas.
  • Now add the cannellini beans and add salt, black pepper and adjust seasoning and herbs as desired such as parsley, fresh thyme, bay leaf, and cook stirring occasionally over low heat for about 1 hour, then turn off.
  • Slice the bread into thin slices. Place a layer of bread in the bottom of a soup tureen or a large deep bowl. Then alternate between pouring the cooked vegetables and a layer of bread until you have filled the tureen. You can remove the bay leaves if you added them.
  • Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • After resting, the soup is ready to serve. Remove a portion of the soup and serve in individual bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if desired.
  • As mentioned previously, we’d like to remind you that the soup is even better reheated the following day!
  • Don’t forget to add a drizzle of olive oil before eating this scrumptious comfort food.
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