This day will never come again. ~Merton
Throughout Tuscany, White Bean Stew is called Ribollita, which translates to “re-boiled.” This hearty stew originated in hilltop villages throughout Tuscany during the Middle Ages, where hungry, hard-working peasants who served table-side to their wealthy landowners, would pocket the leftover crusts and crumbs and bits of meat after abundant feasts and add these to their soups and stews at home. Nothing was wasted. Traditionally, it’s a big pot of soup made with simple garden vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, kale, tomatoes and cannellini beans (or white beans) in a flavorful broth, thickened with bread, then reheated and eaten several days in row, getting better and better each day.
This recipe can be made vegan or vegetarian – the pancetta is optional and can be omitted all together – but for extra depth of flavor, try adding a bit of Parmesan rind to the simmering soup. To me, what really elevates this recipe is the “finishing oil” – a drizzle of olive oil infused with lemon zest, garlic and rosemary which gives this sometimes somber soup a delicious brightness. Serve it with crusty bread to mop up all the tasty flavors. It’s hearty enough for dinner, just on its own, and gets better and better each day…so I like making a big pot of this and eating it throughout the week.
Several years ago now, my group of girlfriends and I took a trip to Tuscany together. After years of planning, saving and dreaming, the time came when we were finally there, in a little hilltop village, soaking up all the Tuscan wine and food we could handle. Time seemed to slow way down, and I remember being able to see, deeply see and take in so much beauty and detail. All felt right in the world – no, not perfect, but just as it should be. By the end of the trip, we each had a name for the bellies we had grown.
There is something truly special about making the decision to go somewhere, and then to actually go. Life is so short. I feel it getting shorter every single day, and I guess I just want to impress upon you to do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing, and to begin to do them now. To start today. People leave this world too soon and often without any notice. Our time here is precious and yet we wait and wait and wait to start living our dreams. What are we waiting for? It’s time.
And back to this stew – of course this can be kept completely vegan using veggie stock instead of chicken stock, but to me, the chicken stock gives it a bit more soul, and the light dusting of good Parmesan or Romano adds such a delicious depth, it really doesn’t take much.
But feel free to make it your own. Just don’t skip the finishing oil, it’s the best.
To thicken the soup, you can blend a cup of the beans into a puree, or add torn pieces of day old bread into the soup itself, cooking the bread down. But personally, I’m a broth fan, so I leave this brothy and un-thickened so there are more juices to dip the crusty bread in while eating. Of course this is a personal preference, so do as you like.
Have a delicious weekend!Print
An hearty flavorfulTuscan Soup recipe with lacinato kale, cannelloni beans and garden vegetables, served with crusty bread and drizzled with a flavorful lemon rosemary oil.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 45 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6-8
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1/8 cup good olive oil
- 1/4 pound large diced pancetta or bacon (optional – sub Parmesan rind in the broth)
- 2 cups diced onions
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced fennel bulb (or sub celery)
- 4 – 6 cloves garlic- rough chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, more to taste
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- 2-3 medium tomatoes – diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
- 6 cups chopped lacinato kale
- Splash white wine
- 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (or use veggie stock)
- 3 cups cooked cannellini beans – or use 2 cans cannellini beans (drained, minced), or great northern white beans
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- Grated pecorino or Parmesan – optional
- Toasty Bread
- Rosemary Lemon Garlic Oil-
- ½ cup good olive oil
- zest of one large lemon
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- few sprigs rosemary (or thyme, sage)
- Make the Lemon Garlic Rosemary Oil – place all ingredients in a small jar or bowl and let sit on the counter (or make the day before, refrigerating)
- In a large, heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and pancetta and saute 6-8 minutes.
- Lower heat to med-low and add the carrots, fennel (or celery) and garlic, salt, pepper and chili flakes, and cook another 7- 9 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Add the tomatoes and lacinato kale, and a splash of white wine, and continue sauteing and stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes.
- Add the stock and beans.
- NOTE: If you like a thicker soup, blend or puree 1 cup of the beans with a little of the stock, to thicken the soup. Or, thicken it with day-old bread, torn into small pieces and cooked with the broth. (I prefer a brothier version of this soup, so I skip this part and serve with toasty bread on the side instead.)
- Bring to soup to boil, turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.
- You could add a Parmesan rind to the simmering soup for extra depth of flavor.
- Stir in fresh Italian Parsley.
- Adjust salt if necessary.
- Serve in bowls with a drizzle of the flavorful lemon oil, grated Parmesan ( or Romano) and crusty bread.