If there is a Tuscan recipe that can win the title as the “most Florentine”, this is, without a doubt, the ribollita. It’s a recipe based on vegetables and stale bread, probably coming from the cuisine of the poor people in the Middle Ages, who had to arrange a meal without wasting anything. So if they had some stale bread and left-overs, they just mixed everything to obtain a soup. Of course the ribollita evolved until today, for example now it contains potatoes, unavailable before the discovery of America. It’s a typical dish of Florence and Florence only: all the other cities in Tuscany have similar soups, but different in the ingredients. Every typical restaurant in Florence serves ribollita, if they don’t, then they’re not a typical restaurant, even though this might depend on the season: the best ingredients for ribollita are easier to find during late Fall, Winter, but as you know, today we have almost everything for 12 months/year.
The word “ribollita”
This is probably a recent word, maybe invented by some restaurant owner. The Holy Bible of Italian cuisine, written by Pellegrino Artusi (a Florentine!) in 1891, calls this recipe “Tuscan soup of the farmer”; looks like the term was first mentioned in a book in 1910. Anyway, ribollita means “re-boiled”. That’s because you prepare ribollita today to eat tomorrow. After one day, you re-boil the soup, and it is a lot better than one day before!
Being a soup based on left-overs, there’s many possible variations. Here in Italy we are proud of our cuisine and we aim at preserving the differences: the Accademia Italiana della Cucina is a cultural association, recognized by the Italian Republic, to preserve the Italian culinary traditions. Well, the Florentine section of this institution went to a Note Keeper on May 24th, 2001, and codified the ribollita recipe with a formal act!
This is the official recipe. As you’ll see it is quite simple, but requires time to prepare and cook. This is for 8 portions.
- one onion
- two segments of garlic
- two pieces of celery
- two carrots
- two potatoes
- black cabbage 400 gr
- savoy cabbage 700 gr
- chard 300 gr
- tomato concentrate 1 tablespoon
- cannellini beans 400 gr
- Tuscan bread 400 gr (don’t you have this? Prepare yourself)
- extravergine olive oil 8 tablespoons
Step 1: place the cannellini beans in cold water the day before. Now boil them (pressure cooking 35 minutes with 2.5 liters of salted water);
Step 2: while beans are boiling chop up the onion and garlic, and let it sautée in the extravergine olive oil for some minutes, in another large pan;
Step 3: reduce in small pieces carrots, celery and potatoes, and add them to the large pan;
Step 4: mix the tomato concentrate with a bit of hot water and add it to the pan;
Step 5: reduce in slices all the cabbage and chard and add them to the pan as well. At this point your large pan will probably be full but don’t worry, in some minutes all this vegetables will go down losing water;
Step 6: at this point your cannellini beans should be ready: take out from water about 3/4 of them, and use a mixer to obtain a cream (also use some of their water);
Step 7: pour the cream back where the remaining beans and their water are; then pour everything into the large pan with the vegetables;
Step 8: let it cook for one hour at least (better 90 minutes); add water if needed and then adjust salt as needed. After it’s cooked, it should be quite liquid, because now you need to add stale Tuscan bread, which will act as a sponge; let bread do his job;
Step 9: next day, heat up the soup for some minutes, mixing it with a wooden spoon; here’s how it appears after bread did his job:
Step 10: serve seasoning the soup with some extravergine olive oil and black pepper.