Ribollita

It looks like the last few posts have all been filled with warm bowls of comforting food. It’s the time of year for hot soups and stews. So, here’s another favorite. Ribollita is a Tuscan soup made of seasonal beans and vegetables. It gets some of that delicious umami flavor from the cooked down parmigiano reggiano rinds and pancetta, not to mention the homemade chicken broth (see the post on liquid gold). Though, of course, it can also be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth and omitting the pancetta and cheese.

Ribollita ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of dried cannellini beans (if you can get fresh ones, even better!), cooked
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4oz of pancetta tesa, cut into small pieces
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 pieces of leftover rinds from parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 2-3 cups of diced tomatoes (from a jar works just as well, if tomatoes aren’t in season)
  • 3-4 cups of homemade chicken broth
  • 1-2 sweet peppers (these are corno di toro), cleaned and chopped
  • a few handfuls of romano beans (you can use any type of green bean), cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped
  • a few handfuls of baby chard (or a small bunch of regular chard)
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • white pepper
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional)
  • dry or toasted bread (optional)

You’ll want to plan ahead when making ribollita, especially if you’re using dried beans. Sort your dried beans to make sure there aren’t any rocks or unappealing beans in the bag you’re using. Rinse them thoroughly and soak them overnight or at least 8-10 hours in cold water. If you’re keeping them much longer than 12 hours before cooking, you’ll want to refrigerate them. When you return to the pot after letting them soak, you’ll notice that they will have soaked up a fair amount of water and have grown in volume.

Drain the beans and put them in a large pot with a couple inches of water cover. Bring the pot to a boil. When you notice the foamy substance rise to the surface, drain and rinse the beans and rinse the pot. Replace the beans in the pot and cover again with fresh water, a couple inches above the level of the beans. Bring the pot back up to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.

While the beans cook, prep your vegetables and other ingredients. Keep them separate so that you can add them in order of slowest cooking to quickest cooking. Begin by adding a little olive oil to a large soup pot and sweat the onions until just translucent. One by one, add the garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, and pancetta. After these start to cook a bit, add the peppers. Around this time, the beans should be almost ready to add to the pot too. Add them with their cooking liquid. Also add the parmigiano reggiano rinds, bay leaves, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Let this simmer for at least another 20 minutes before adding the kale, chard, romano (or other green) beans, and parsley. Season with sea salt, cayenne pepper, and white pepper. Cook for another 20-30 minutes.

Though delicious right off the stove, the ribollita is even better the next day. The name ribollita actually means reboiled and this soup benefits from bringing it up to a boil again when you reheat it. I also suggest letting it cool so it’s just warmer than warm (not hot) when you eat it. Many people enjoy putting some pieces of day old bread or toasted bread in the soup when serving. I like it both ways (pictured without bread). If you like, also sprinkle some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano on top.

ribollita on table

Fresh Cannellini Bean Salad

Shelling Cannellini Beans

In summer, making beans doesn’t have to require planning the day before and cooking for long periods of time. And, no, I’m not talking about popping open a can. These fresh cannellini beans were easy to prepare and the uses are endless. I decided to use half to make a bean salad and saved the other half for another use (or, since it was so delicious, maybe more of the same) later this week.

I’m a big fan of beans but rarely cook them because they require soaking the night before and then a fairly long cook time on the stove. So, I was very excited to discover that Good Eggs is currently selling fresh cannellini beans from Dirty Girl Produce in Santa Cruz. I quickly signed up for two pounds (comes out to about 2 cups shelled) in this week’s delivery and now wish I had purchased more!

One of my favorite parts of preparing fresh beans (and peas too) is the shelling process. It’s simple and relaxing. In some ways, it reminds me of knitting or other repetitive tasks that can become almost meditative. Sometimes, I shell them while watching TV or chatting on the phone. Other times, it’s a welcome break from screen time and an opportunity for some quiet reflection.

Boil Cannellini Beans

After giving the beans a quick rinse in the colander, set them on the stove, with some water, over medium to medium-high heat to just bring them up to a boil. Once boiling, lower the temperature and simmer them for about 20-30 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on the freshness of the bean (if it’s older, it’ll be drier and take longer) and also on personal preference.

Cooked Cannellini Beans

I tend to like my beans soft and squishy. So, I cook them until I see some of them start to break apart. After straining in a colander, they’re ready to use!

Other Bean Salad Ingredients

While the beans cook, you’ll have more than enough time to prepare the other bean salad ingredients:

  • half of a small red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or chopped
  • a small handful of cilantro (basil or parsley work great too), chopped
  • 15-20 “sweet 100” or other small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • a generous pour of olive oil
  • a few splashes of red wine vinegar
  • a liberal sprinkle of salt
  • cayenne pepper, to taste

and, of course,

  • 1 cup of cooked cannellini beans

I like to stir the beans in with the rest of the ingredients while they’re still hot. I’ve noticed that this helps the flavors combine faster and also helps to mellow the raw garlic and onion flavors. These quantities yield enough for two people enjoying this as a main course or for four, as a side dish. Serve at room temperature with some toasted or grilled ciabatta bread.

Cannellini Bean Salad