Making Ribollita in Tuscany:
I’m sure I heard someone saying that this wonderful dish was the Italian equivalent of Jewish Chicken Soup. Something that is so much a part of the culture and heritage of Tuscany that no one needs a recipe and everyone has their own way of making it.
Well, on my recent trip to Tuscany we were lucky enough to have a cookery lesson from Anna Bini, a lovely Italian chef with three restaurants in Paris(!). It was her wonderful Villa that Tuscany Now had offered us for this trip – and she came back to stay next door and share a few secrets of cooking in Tuscany with us. One small challenge – much of the food in the area is dominated by meat and my companion, The Hedonist, doesn’t eat meat at all. So when Anna prepared the Ribollita she explained that she’d left out the ham bone from the bean stock. And, nothing was measured, so my recipe is very much my estimate of what was used.
- 1-2 stick Celery
- 1-2 Carrot
- 1 Onion
- 1 glass White Wine
- 200 g Cavolo Nero
- 25 ml Olive Oil
- 2-3 Courgettes
- 1 Potato
- 1 Carrot
- 2 sticks Celery
- 300 g Dried Canelli Beans Soaked overnight in water
- 8 Sage Leaves
- 3-4 Garlic
- 25 ml Olive oil
- 1 Ham hock or bone optional
- 6 thin slices Stale Bread
Make the base for the soup by stewing the white beans in water with sage, olive oil and the ham bone for 30-40 minutes till the beans are soft. Remove the bone and 3-4 spoonfuls of beans, then liquidise the mixture to make a white thick 'stock'. It should be about the consistency of single cream at this stage
Make the mirepoix by gently stewing finely diced onion, celery and carrot in olive oil. Once the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelise, add the white wine and reduce right down
Add the stock to to the mirepoix, then add in the cavola nero and remaining carrot, celery and potato. Season with salt and pepper to taste
Cook this mixture in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes or a large stovetop casserole for twice that time. 5 minutes before the soup is cooked, add the remaining cannelli beans
Line an oven proof serving bowl with two layers of the thinly sliced bread and pour all the soup mixture on top. Allow the mixture to rest., ideally for a few hours or overnight, then reheat and serve.
I've estimated quantities for this dish - Anna explained that most cookery of this sort is passed down through families.
Anna also made a few other dishes for us including swordfish with fennel and a chestnut cake called Castanaccio. . The swordfish and fennel dish was delicious and one I will attempt to recreate at some point. And we all sat down to a wonderful Tuscan feast, finishing off with some Grappa!
Many thanks to Anna for our cookery lesson and to TuscanyNow, providers of villas in Tuscany for organising our trip to Il Monte.