I don’t know about you, but my vegetable garden is looking pretty raggedy in these last days of summer. That is, except for the swiss chard and Tuscan kale. They’re the champions of the garden – still going strong and perfect for vegetable soup and ribollita. For the record, the photo above isn’t vegetable soup – it’s ribollita, an Italian word that means re-boiled. The first time I ordered ribollita in Italy, I was surprised to be served something that was more of a thick, vegetable stew than a liquidy soup. But that’s what it’s meant to be. In an attempt to use every morsel and not waste anything, thrifty Italians took leftover bread and added it to the previous day’s vegetable soup to make something even more hearty. It’s a classic recipe from the region of Tuscany, whose landscapes never fail to enchant.
It’s also one of the easiest and best ways to use up some of those delicious and nutritious fall vegetables you might still have in your garden. Here are the basic ingredients for my soup, whether it’s vegetable soup or ribollita. You can use your imagination and add other ingredients if you like. If you’ve got a leftover parmigiano reggiano rind, throw that in. I always have a few that I’ve saved in the freezer.
Once the pot has simmered for a while, add the beans and it should look like this – a hearty and soul-warming soup to ward off the chill from a brisk fall day. Leftovers freeze well too, so don’t worry about making too much.
Here it is served as a brothy vegetable soup.
And here it is as ribollita, after adding some bread and reheating. Traditional ribollita is much thicker than this, and you can practically have a spoon standing on end inside a deep bowl of it, but this was prepared immediately following the vegetable soup. If you let the bread soak overnight and reheat the next day, it attains the thicker consistency.
This isn’t like making a cake where you have to be exact in the quantities, so feel free to change or add/subtract whatever ingredients and quantities you prefer.
1 large onion, minced
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
swiss chard, about 20 leaves chopped and stalks sliced
Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, dinosaur kale (same thing) – about 16 -20 leaves, chopped up
1/2 savoy cabbage, chopped up
2 small zucchini, chopped
8-10 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped (canned is fine and you can add more if you like a stronger tomato flavor)
2 14-ounce cannellini beans
1 parmesan cheese rind
16 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
fresh or dried thyme and basil as you like
a hearty, stale bread for ribollita
olive oil to drizzle on top
Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until limp. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the beans and simmer for about a half hour. Add the beans and cook another half hour. Serve immediately as vegetable soup with some parmesan sprinkled on top. Or layer some soup and bread in a bowl or pot and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat the next day and you’ve got ribollita. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.