Ribollita is the boiled-twice hearty soup from Tuscany. Its origin, in a simplified version of the XVI century, points specifically to the beautiful town of Arezzo, close to where my mother was born. A few summer vacations spent there as a kid at some cousins’ casale (rural farmhouse), make it easy for me to imagine how and why this simple, vegetarian soup was created. In catholic Italy, Friday was a day where no meat could be eaten, so the habit of putting together some vegetables and let them boil for hours on a Friday was born. To get rid of all bread leftovers of the week, stale bread was added to the soup to make it thicker and give it the consistency of a vegetarian / vegan stew ante litteram. Consider also that all the ingredients were readily available in the vegetable garden that every farmer maintained, so the dish was typical of the “cucina povera” tradition, namely cooking with few inexpensive ingredients, but still making some appetizing dishes. The soup was re-boiled before consumption, even more than once, and each re-boiling concentrated and enhanced the flavor.
There is a general consensus about the ingredients to use, but as always in Italy, each family has its own recipe, or maybe the twist is simply a consequence of what is available in the pantry. Two ingredients are always present though: lacinato kale and beans. The first is also known as black kale, or, in English, as dino kale for its bumpy, dark green leaf. Usually, this kind of kale grows in winter, it is very resistant to cold temperatures and actually needs to be exposed to ice-cold nights to become more tender. All of which of course never happens here in California, where we can enjoy this tasteful and healthy vegetable all year long. Black kale, as all the other members of the large kale family, has been shown to have significant health benefits.
On top of that, black kale contains a massive amount of polyphenols and antioxidants, which through their anti-inflammatory effects are thought to decrease the risk for many chronic diseases including asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and many more. It also contains large amounts of carotenoids, who help ensure eyes’ health. The beans used are mostly Cannellini, a variety of medium sized white beans typical from Italy, but they can be substituted with pinto beans.
Ribollita used to be a winter staple, but with the ingredients available all year round, it is delicious and satisfying as well when consumed in summer at room temperature.
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For 4 Servings
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)