Tuscan Bean Soup, otherwise known as Ribollita, is a 15th-century traditional fall and winter soup, brimming with seasonal healthy superfoods like kale and squash. And incredibly soul-satisfying and delicious!
“Ribollita literally means ‘reboiled,’ in fact, an authentic Ribollita takes about three days to taste its best. Its origins seem to latch back to medieval times when the servants were given the azyme bread in which the meat of the nobility was served on and they boiled it in a soup with vegetables and herbs found in surrounding fields. The quantities were large and lasted for several days, hence boiling the soup over and over with the result of being it tastier each time.”
While there are many variations of Ribollita, most of which are dictated by the vegetables you find in the larder on any given crisp day, most recipes call for cannellini beans, kale, squash, and thyme.
This is our variation of a delicious, hearty soup. Served with a couple of slices of toasted country-style bread– and it’s a complete meal.
Tuscan Olive Oil
As you may have guessed, a key ingredient to this soup is olive oil. Both for cooking and for drizzling.
A New York Times writer traveled to Tuscany to learn about olive oil and what makes it special.
Sitting around a massive wooden table in a tasting room, with the famously golden Tuscan sunlight spilling over her shoulders, writer Danielle Pergament asked some prominent gentlemen farmers about olive oil and what makes it special.
“Olive oil,” they explained, is more than something to drizzle over a dish when you want to impress company. It is a lifestyle. It is a necessary ingredient at every meal.”
Near the end of the article, Pergament gives the following advice on choosing a good quality olive oil.
“Some starting tips: To ensure you are getting real extra-virgin olive oil, make sure the bottle does not allow much light inside, and look for details like the name of the farm and an expiration date (which should be within 18 months).”
How to Make Tuscan Bean Soup
If you’re using dried beans:
Drain beans and transfer to a 3 qt. saucepan and add 4-5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 40–45 minutes.
If you are using canned beans:
Drain and rinse the beans and set aside. And then proceed with the recipe.
Making the Soup:
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, celery, onion, and minced garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes. Then add the squash, kale, potatoes, tomatoes with their liquid, chicken stock, and the bay leaf. Season with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste.
Bring to the ribollita to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the soup and cook until the vegetables are tender; about 15 minutes. Then add the zucchini and the cooked or canned beans; simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until both the beans and veggies are soft. Stir in the fresh thyme leaves.
Meanwhile, toast the bread and rub it with the cut end of the halved garlic clove. Drizzle each toast with 1 tablespoon of oil. To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle the soup over the bread. Drizzle the ribollita with remaining oil.
A Classic Ribollita: Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe
Serves 6 to 12.
Entree size is about 2+ cups per serving.
1 1⁄2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or 2 – 3 15-ounce cans, drained)
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1⁄2 yellow onion, chopped, plus rings for garnish
3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic (3 minced, 1 halved)
10 oz. butternut squash peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes (about 2 cups)
1 small zucchini, cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
4 large kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
1 medium waxy-style potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (or a handful of cherry tomatoes chopped)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock, reduced-sodium, plus extra water if needed
1 – 2 bay leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (1 teaspoon dried)
8 thick slices country-style bread
Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
Drain beans and transfer to a 3-qt. saucepan and add 4-5 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 40–45 minutes.
If you are using canned beans, skip the first step.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and minced garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the squash, kale, potato, tomatoes with liquid, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Season with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes.
Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add zucchini and cooked beans (or canned beans) and simmer another 5-10 minutes or until both the beans and veggies are soft. Stir in the fresh thyme leaves.
Meanwhile, toast the bread and rub it with the cut end of the halved garlic clove. Drizzle each toast with 1 tbsp. oil. To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle soup over the top. Drizzle soup with remaining oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.