Ribollita (Vegetable, Bean and Stale Bread Soup)
- 1 cup borlotti beans or other small dried bean of choice, soaked for 4 hours
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 onions, 1/2 peeled, 1 1/2 chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 to 6 slices 1-inch thick peasant style bread, cut into coarse cubes or torn into pieces
- About 1/4 cup EVOO, plus some for drizzling at the table
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 small ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/3 palmful
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- Herb bundle of fresh parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato or dinosaur) or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, (about 12 ounces trimmed greens)
- 1/2 small savoy cabbage, cored and chopped, about 2 to 3 cups
- A few grates of nutmeg
- 2 cups tomato puree or passata
- Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus freshly grated to pass at table
- 1 small white or red onion, finely chopped
Drain the beans and place in a pot with 4 cups chicken stock, 1 clove garlic, half an onion and some salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread until deeply golden and toasted. Store in foil.
Heat 1/4 cup EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, remaining 3 cloves garlic, chile flakes, bay leaf and herb bundle. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, kale, cabbage and a little nutmeg. Stir. Wilt the greens, partially covered, 5 to 6 minutes more. Add the beans and their liquids and the tomato puree. Stir. Add 2 cups more stock (reserve 2 cups for the night you serve). Add the cheese rind to the soup. Simmer to combine flavors, 15 minutes. Remove 3 cups of the beans and vegetables, about half the soup, to food processor and puree. Then add back to pot. Cool and store the soup for a make-ahead meal.
To serve, heat the soup over medium heat, add the bread to the soup and let it absorb the liquid. Thin the soup with the remaining 2 cups of stock. Taste to adjust seasoning. Remove the herb bundle, rind and bay leaf. The ribollita is done when a wooden spoon can stand straight up in the soup. Ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with a generous drizzle of EVOO, finely chopped raw onion and cheese. Leftover soup can be fried in olive oil in a skillet like potato pancakes or hash, and topped with over easy or fried eggs.
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