A hearty beans and greens soup
Ribollita is an Italian word that translates to ‘reboiled’. I’m sure if you saw an English menu with ‘Reboiled soup’ listed, you’d probably be pretty unimpressed. Don’t be turned off, it tastes a hell of a lot better than that translation sounds.
This soup starts with the classic sofrito/mire-poix of diced onion, carrot and celery
The name comes from the historical tradition of making soup from leftover stew or soup (a soup soup) and bulking it out with stale bread. Next-day soup often has a better, rounded flavour than when freshly cooked. I have no idea what the science behind this phenomenon is, but it’s the same with stews and curries. After a night in the fridge, the flavours just seem to ‘marry’ much better. As much as the whole idea of this soup is about reheating it the next day, you absolutely can eat this soup the day of cooking. If making soup for two people, this recipe should make enough for leftovers so you can do your own test to see if it tastes better fresh or reheated the next day.
A ribollita traditionally is made with stale bread, it helps thicken the soup and is a great way to use bread that was destined for the bin. Adding bread to the soup makes it a very thick and hearty soup, great for a cold winter night. But say its summer and instead, you only have fresh bread. No need to turn that fresh bread into mush, serve it alongside the soup for dipping and mopping. Also, not everyone has stale bread on hand, so a good way to thicken this soup is with pureed beans. You can go the easy way and blitz a can of beans with the liquid from the can — the ‘aquafaba’ as it's called — and then add that into the soup. Or you can use dried beans and simply cook the beans in the soup, which will thicken the soup with the released bean starches.
This recipe is the basic structure of a ribollita, but feel free to add more ingredients. A few cloves of garlic couldn’t hurt. Earthy herbs are good too, like; rosemary, oregano, sage or thyme.
Adding the rind from a piece of parmesan is a popular addition and really helps to give the soup a cheesy, umami layer. I always save my parmesan rinds for this purpose. Keep them in a bag in the freezer until needed.
A squeeze of lemon at added at the end can help brighten up and balance the savoury flavours. And if you need to add some meat; pancetta, guanciale or pork sausage are all good options.