There are several classic dishes that evoke the heart of Tuscan cuisine, but when winter arrives in earnest, any discussion about soup begins and ends with Ribollita. 
Ribollita literally means “re-boiled” and is thought to have originated in medieval times, when peasants and servants would add leftover bread from their Lord’s dinners and use it as a base for their own meals; a soup consummated with inexpensive ingredients and nutrient rich greens.  As with many Italian recipes, there are countless variations and this recipe, which I’ve created, is no different.
1/2 head red cabbage
2 carrots
2 ribs celery
1 onion
16 oz. Rainbow Chard Mix
1 pound sweet sausage links
4 oz. package dice pancetta
2  8oz. cans Canellini Beans, rinsed
1  16oz. can of Whole San Marzano tomatoes
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup water
1 loaf crusty round bread
3 cloves peeled, whole, raw garlic
In a large pot that will be used for the soup, brown the sausage well and then remove them to a dish.  While they are browing, pulse the red cabbage in a food processor until shredded.  Chop the onions, celery and carrots and reserve on your cutting board. 

~ Browned Sausage & Pulsed Red Cabbage ~
In the pot, saute the onion and pancetta until the onion softens.  If there’s not enough oil from the sausage, you can add a little extra virgin olive oil.  At this point, you’ll need just a splash of white wine to deglaze the pot – then add the celery and carrots and saute for 5-8 minutes more until they’re softened. 

~ Pancetta & Onions ~

~ Celery and Carrots Added ~

Once the carrots have softened, add the San Marzano tomatoes and stir through.  Gently crush the whole tomatoes, but don’t worry too much – they’ll fall apart as the soup cooks.  Once this is done,  add the cabbage, greens, chicken stock and water to the pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Simmer as long as 6 hours.  Essentially, my soup was to this point by 9:30AM and I cooked it until about 4PM.

~ The Cabbage is underneath this amazing Rainbow Chard.  This is just before the addition of the stock & water ~
While the soup is simmering,  slice your sausage crosswise and rinse your beans.  About an hour before you turn off the soup, add the sausage so that it finishes cooking.  About 30 minutes before the soup is done, add the beans, stir through gently and then shut the soup off and leave covered until dinner.
Just before dinner, slice your bread, brush each slice with olive oil and run them quickly under the broiler.  While warm, liberally rub the toasted pieces with the raw garlic cloves.  Serve soup in warmed bowls with the garlic crostini.   Pass grated parmigiano and fresh olive oil at the table.

~ Crostini just out of the oven ~

This is the soup right after the beans were added.  I shut it off and let it steep, otherwise the beans can turn to mush.  Had I thought this out before hand, I would have used dried beans and soaked them overnight, but alas,  I didn’t have that much foresight.

~ The Finished Ribollita in the pot ~

The Plated Soup………

~ A Warming Hearty Bowl of Tuscan Ribollita ~

This recipe was great.  It made an already hearty soup even more fulfilling with the addition of the sausage.  Everyone loved it – even my “anti-soup” son.   This recipe made about 10 entree servings, so there will definitely be some you can freeze for use later this winter.  Packed with flavor and packed with nutrients.  Enjoy! 

Note:  We paired this with a simple, juicy 2010 Chianti Classico from Monteraponi.  That will be the subject of a future article.  Other apt pairing could easily be Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, and of course Rosso di Montalcino.  If you desire American wine, I think even a robust Zinfandel would be great.

A presto….

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