This classic ribollita soup recipe makes the Tuscan bean, kale and bread soup, invented to use up leftovers, including stale bread. ‘Ribollita’ means ‘re-boiled’ in Italian and traditionally this hearty vegetarian broth was made with leftover soup, such as minestrone or white bean soup that was re-boiled with old bread. Comforting and warming, it’s perfect for a cool-ish day.
If you love soups as much as I do – fish soups, chicken soups, noodle soups, chicken noodle soups, warming winter soups, cold summer soups, I adore them all – then you’re going to love this ribollita recipe made from scratch, using stale sourdough bread.
It’s been cool and breezy here in Siem Reap the past couple of evenings, plus it rained yesterday, which is just wild for April, typically the hottest and driest month of the year. Locals (used to) call March and April the ‘Cambodian summer’.
As soon as the temperatures drop to anything resembling spring or autumn weather, I make soup. Tonight, I’m making an Italian wedding soup and tomorrow a Spanish garlic soup if the weather doesn’t warm up.
Before I tell you about this traditional ribollita soup recipe for a Tuscan bean, kale and bread soup, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve used and like our recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo by supporting our original, epic, first-of-its-kind Cambodian culinary history and cookbook on Patreon for as little as US$5 a month. Or, you could also buy us a coffee. Although we’ll use our coffee money to buy cooking ingredients for recipe testing instead.
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Ribollita Soup Recipe for a Hearty Tuscan Style Bean, Kale and Bread Soup
This traditional ribollita soup recipe will make you the Tuscan style white bean, cavalo nero and bread soup from scratch, although this rich and hearty soup was actually invented to make use of leftovers, including leftover soup, along with stale bread.
It’s a perfect example of a dish of Italy’s ‘cucina povera’, literally ‘poor cooking’, a traditional cuisine of the countryside that was born out of poverty and frugality that has resulted in some of Italy’s most delicious specialties.
Cucina povera was all about stretching out ingredients and dishes, and making use of everything in the kitchen, so that nothing went to waste. And, of course, that philosophy has guided country cooking right around the world, not only in Italy.
This ribollita soup recipe is the first in a series of leftover bread recipes as almost every European country has bread soup recipes to use up stale bread, in the same way that Southeast Asian countries have rice porridge recipes that were created to use leftover steamed rice.
As much as we adore Terence’s beautiful sourdough bread, we rarely get through a whole sourdough batard and it breaks our hearts to have to throw out a sourdough end, let alone half a loaf as we reluctantly did the other day, as two people can only eat so much.
And sourdough is just so good in these kinds of bread soups as it has so much flavour and a dense-ish texture so it doesn’t turn to mush. It’s also fantastic toasted and buttered on the side to dip into the broth – just in case that’s not enough bread for you…
Tips to Making this Ribollita Soup Recipe for a Hearty Tuscan Bean, Kale and Bread Soup
While this ribollita soup recipe is going to make you the Tuscan style bean, cavalo nero and bread soup from scratch, you could certainly start from a leftover vegetable soup if you have one in the fridge. If you’re a regular sourdough baker like Terence, you could also schedule this for the second or third day after baking a loaf.
I cook this in Terence’s Dutch oven, in which he bakes his sourdough. If you’ve not bought a Dutch oven yet, do it now. We use it for so many dishes – here are just some of our favourite Dutch oven recipes. A Le Creuset Dutch oven is perhaps the most-coveted but we have the more affordable Lodge Dutch oven.
Traditional recipes call for soaking dried beans overnight and by all means you can do that, but I’ve opted for canned beans as I know so many of you are looking for easier recipes these days, as there’s simply not enough time in the day. I hear you.
A lot of Italian ribollita recipes call for ‘white beans’. I use a mix of butter beans and cannellini beans, as I like the combination of textures. You’ll need to separate each can in half and mash one half of the beans.
I’ve spotted recipes that suggest you mash the beans in a blender or using an immersion blender. I simply separate the beans and use a fork to mash them. It’s quick and easy. To be honest, when I make this ribollita at home I actually mash the beans in the soup.
Italian ribollita recipes call for cavalo nero or Tuscan kale, however, I’ve spotted all sorts of spinach and greens in ribollita soup recipes, from silverbeet to Swiss chard, and they all taste good.
Italian recipes also call for slow-cooking ribollita soups and recommend several hours of simmering. Obviously that’s going to give you a ribollita that has more depth and complexity but I find that if you follow this recipe you’ll still get an incredibly rich and delicious soup after an hour or so.
If you’re lingering near the kitchen and have an afternoon at home, why not start it earlier, turn it to the lowest setting, and just check it every 30 minutes or so, adding a little more stock or water if it thickens too much.
Lastly, I should mention that ground paprika is not traditional. Italian friends and readers, I apologise in advance, I just can’t help myself. It’s one of my favourite spices and I use it in a lot of European soups and stews. I have also been known to add a teaspoon of chilli flakes, but that’s going too far for some Italians so you won’t see me committing that to a recipe.
Ribollita Soup Recipe for a Hearty Tuscan Bean, Kale and Bread Soup
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion finely diced
- 1 carrot large, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk large, finely diced
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 garlic cloves crushed and finely diced
- 1 large potato peeled and diced
- 1 bouquet of fresh rosemary and thyme – 6 twigs tied together with kitchen twine
- 200 g tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 400 g cavolo nero/Tuscan kale roughly chopped – or spinach, silverbeet, Swiss chard, gai lan
- 400 g can cannellini beans – mash half keep liquid
- 400 g can butter beans – mash half keep liquid
- 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind – around 5cm in length rind only
- 1 litre vegetable stock or water
- 300 g stale sourdough bread roughly half a loaf or another crusty country-style bread, cut into 3cm x 3cm pieces
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper fresh, cracked
- 2 tsp paprika ground
- 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- In a Dutch oven, large deep skillet or soup/stew pot, over medium heat, heat the olive oil to make the soffritto by frying the finely diced onion, carrot, celery, and salt for around 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until tender and fragrant.
- Add the finely diced garlic into the mix, combine, continue to stir occasionally, and fry for another few minutes or so until the onion is soft and translucent and the aromas are wafting through your kitchen. If at the onion and garlic start to brown, turn the heat to low, and if needed add another tablespoon of olive oil.
- Toss in the diced potato and bouquet of thyme and rosemary to the soffritto, combine, and continue to fry for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, combine, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
- Add half the kale/spinach, half the whole cannellini and butter beans, bean liquid, half the bread, half a litre of stock (or water), the Parmigiano Reggiano rind, salt, pepper and paprika, stir to combine well, then leave to simmer for an hour – or two if you have time; the longer you can leave it the richer it will taste – checking on it occasionally, and gradually adding the rest of the stock (or water) as needed.
- About 20 minutes before serving, add the mashed beans, remaining bread, kale/spinach and whole cannellini and butter beans, taste, and adjust the seasoning to your palate.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and to each bowl drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on a generous tablespoon of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Please do let us know if you make this classic ribollita soup recipe for a Tuscan bean, kale and bread soup, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.