Ribollita is one of the quintessential Tuscan dishes, made from bread (preferably stale), beans and autumnal veggies. Ribollita means ‘boiled again’, and whilst very simple, it takes a few re-boilings to make delicious.
The first bollita are the dry cannellini beans, soaked overnight; the second bollita are the veggies, into which you then re-bollire the cooked beans. Finally you add the bread, and you re-bollire everything together. The more you boil, the more delicious it will be for the following days!
300 grams of stale unsalted tuscan bread (called Pane Raffermo), or you can use other types thick crusted unsalted bread
400 grams of dried cannellini beans
3 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 celery sticks
1 large bunch of cavolo nero (you can also use kale)
2 large tomatoes
Soak the beans overnight, rinse, then cover with fresh water and bring to the boil. Add the garlic, rosemary, bay, and simmer for about 1 hour – until tender and take off the heat, without draining the beans.
Gently heat the soffritto (thinly chopped onion, celery and carrots), in an abundant gulp of oil, until tender and translucent. Add the tomatoes cut in 1/4s, let them release their juices for a couple of minutes, the loosely chopped cavolo nero, mixing well so everything is coated in oil and wet. Add water to cover everything, (you could use the beans water or a veggie stock if you wish) a tsp of salt, bring to the boil, cover then gently simmer for a couple of hours – adding boiling water or the beans water if it’s drying up.
Add the beans to the the pot, bring back to the boil, then simmer for additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
In an earthenware pot (or a large casserole dish), spread the bread to cover the bottom completely, then spoon the ribollita over the bread (you could do individual portions here if you wish to impress your guests), then layer up the bread and the soup again. Cover with clingfilm and rest at least 3 hours (better still overnight again!).
Heat up by gently boiling it with a little stock for 15 or 20 minutes, add a good glug of EVOO and salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot.
This is peasant food, so any seasonal vegetable you might want to add to the second re-boil will go well – so potatoes or cabbage for example – just add them after the soffritto is cooked.