During these waning hours of 2012, I wanted to wish all readers of Devil & Egg a very joyous New Year’s Eve, and also share a dish that I think is ideal for starting off 2013. Ribollita is a Tuscan bean soup that is heartening, restorative, flavorful, and healthful–part hangover cure, part delicious resolution in a bowl. The recipe I use is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Salt to Taste, from Marco Canoro, the chef/owner of Hearth restaurant in New York City. The soup traditionally includes cannellini beans, onions, carrots, celery, savoy cabbage, black cabbage (also known as dinosaur kale or cavolo nero), chicken or vegetable broth, crostini and Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish, and thyme.
One of the great things about this soup is that it’s so flexible, you can even treat it as a bean and vegetable soup, depending on how much broth you add and if you want to puree it a bit at the end. If you can’t find the black cabbage then regular green kale is fine, and for my latest batch I substituted the carrots with parsnips because that’s what I had on hand. They worked out fine.
For the beans I soak a big batch of dried cannellini overnight, simmer it with half a head of garlic and fresh sage until tender, and whatever I don’t use goes in the freezer for later.
For the crostini I also like to keep slices of baguette in the freezer–if I buy a baguette and don’t use it all up, I slice what’s left before it hardens, put it in a giant Ziploc (one of my favorite things are giant freezer Ziploc bags, just thought I’d share that), and freeze, pulling out slices for crostini, french onion soup topping, emergency toast, etc..
So the soup–this recipe makes a big batch, enough for a crowd or for a few days of leftovers (the flavors meld and get better over time) or to freeze.
In a large Dutch oven or something similar, pour a thin layer of olive oil and over medium heat add 3 cups finely chopped onions, 3 cups finely chopped carrots or parsnips or both, and 3 cups celery. Season with salt, stir the vegetables to combine and coat with oil, cover, and cook until soft but not browning, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
Add 4 cups of chopped savoy cabbage. Stir to combine with the other vegetables, cover, and cook until wilted (about 3 minutes).
Stir in a scant 1/2 cup of tomato paste, turn the heat down, and add about 8 cups of finely chopped black cabbage or kale (thick part of the ribs removed). Cover the pot and let all of the ingredients cook together until tender, about 20 minutes. Add 10 cups of broth or water (or a combination of both), raise heat, and bring to a boil, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot.
Add 3 cups of cooked cannellini beans and with a hand held immersion blender, puree them into the soup (this is optional but it’s a nice way to thicken the soup). Add another 2 cups of beans to the soup and stir to combine. Reduce the heat again and let everything simmer gently for about a half hour.
Season the soup well with salt and pepper and add some fresh thyme leaves. Taste and season again with salt and pepper.
Serve the soup in a bowl with a toasted piece of crusty bread on top, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. Enjoy!
And Happy New Year!!