Ribollita is a traditional Tuscan soup (or stew) made with stale bread, white beans, cabbage, and more vegetables. It's a simple healthy vegan soup from peasants' origins but at the same time, it's comforting and delicious. This is the authentic recipe of Ribollita Toscana, the way it's been made in Tuscan households and Trattorias for centuries.
I'd probably define Ribollita more as a vegetable stew than a vegetable soup because it's very dense with not much liquid and lots of chunky veggies.
It's definitely a winter meal, because it's warm and comforting, but also because it has winter vegetables like cabbage and kale. Although I remember my grandfather enjoying it in summer too as it was his favorite dish.
What is Ribollita soup and where does it come from?
Ribollita (read ree-bohl-lee-tah), also called Ribollita Toscana, Ribollita Senese, or simply Zuppa di Pane (Bread Soup), it's an ancient Tuscan recipe with peasant origins in Medieval times.
It's popular throughout Tuscany and there are several versions of this soup recipe. This is the Senese version, from Siena, the city I was born and raised.
The name Ribollita literally means re-boiled. This describes the traditional process of cooking and reheating this soup. See below notes for the authentic cooking process.
In Medieval times, most of the Tuscan population were peasants and lived in poverty. That's why most of the traditional Tuscan recipes are made with vegetables, legumes, and bread, which were the only ingredients available to peasants.
How to make the authentic Ribollita
Ribollita is fairly straightforward, but to make the recipe the authentic way, takes a lot of time. Here I'll describe the authentic cooking process and in my recipe card below you'll find the easier speed-up process.
The first step is to soften the Cannellini beans by soaking the dried beans in a bowl of water overnight.
Boil the beans in lightly salted water for about 1 hour (use 3 cups of water for each cup of beans). If you use canned beans, skip this first step. While the beans cook, start cleaning and chopping all the vegetables. Remove the thick central stem from the cabbage and kale and chop the leaves roughly.
Set aside ½ cup of beans and blend the rest together with their water until you get a smooth cream (1).
In a large pot, drizzle some olive oil and sauté the onion for a couple of minutes (2), then add the tomato paste, cook for another minute, then add the beans cream, and the whole beans, mix with a spoon then add all the other chopped veggies (3). Season with salt, black pepper, and thyme.
Simmer at low heat for about 2 hours. Check it once in a while and add a bit of water if it's too dry (4).
Rub a garlic clove on the slices of bread (5). After the 2 hours, take a large terracotta casserole or dutch oven and layer the bottom with bread, then add a layer of vegetables, another layer of bread, and so on until the pot is full (6). Let it rest covered for a few hours or overnight. When it's time to eat it, reheat in a pan with some olive oil and add a bit of water if it's too dense.
I usually skip the resting time and add the slices of bread to the casserole halfway through the cooking so I can serve it the same day, topped with a drizzle of good olive oil and chili pepper flakes.
This recipe has many ingredients and some may be difficult to find in some areas, so here's a list of suggestions to substitute some ingredients.
- Bread: The traditional recipe uses Tuscan bread, which is a crusty sourdough bread and it's unsalted. Since this can only be found in Tuscany, you have the option to make the Tuscan bread yourself, or substitute it with a different type of bread. Any type of good-quality bread will do, I suggest using a crusty sourdough bread.
- Beans: The beans in this recipe should be Cannellini, preferably dried ones. But I usually use canned ones to speed up the cooking time. If you cannot find canned Cannellini, you can also use other white beans.
- Cavolo Nero: Cavolo Nero or Lacinato Kale, is very popular in Tuscany and therefore used in many soups. If you cannot find Cavolo Nero, you can use the standard Kale.
- Savoy Cabbage: This is my favorite cabbage but if you cannot find it, you can use Green or Napa Cabbage.
- Tomato Paste: You can skip the tomato paste altogether or add a couple of chopped tomatoes together with the vegetables.
FAQ & Tips
Yes, you can definitely make Ribollita in a pressure cooker. Just make sure you add enough water and cook at high pressure for 30-40 minutes. The final result will be more liquid so you can either reduce it at high heat for 10-15 minutes or keep it as it is.
Yes, it's optional to add a Parmesan rind to the stew but if this is skipped, the Ribollita is completely vegan.
Yes, this is what I always do! Since this recipe makes a big batch, I'll always portion the leftovers and freeze them in airtight containers for up to 6 months.
If you like this recipe, try also these other hearty soups:
Ribollita - Tuscan Bread Stew
- 1 can Cannellini beans
- 1 cup Carrot
- 1 cup Celery
- 1 Red Onion
- 1 cup Frozen Spinach
- 4-5 large leaves Savoy Cabbage
- 1 Cavolo Nero, Lacinato Kale
- 3 small Potatoes
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Thyme
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- ½ loaf stale Bread, see notes
- Black Pepper
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Clean and chop the carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes. Thaw the spinach. Remove the thick central stem from the cabbage and kale and chop the leaves roughly.
- Set aside ½ cup of beans and blend the rest together with their water until you get a smooth cream.
- In a large pot, drizzle some olive oil and sauté the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato paste, cook for another minute, then add the beans cream, and the whole beans.
- Mix with a spoon then add all the other chopped vegetables. Season with salt, black pepper, and thyme.
- Add enough water to barely cover all the vegetables and simmer at low heat for about 2 hours. Check it occasionally and add a bit of water if it's too dry.
- Halfway through the cooking, rub a garlic clove on the slices of bread. Chop the bread slices in large chunks and add them to the stew. Mix well so they get covered.
- Serve the Ribollita in bowl adding a drizzle of olive oil on top.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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