Ribollita – or “reboiled” in Italian – is a famous Tuscan peasant soup made thick by the addition of leftover stale bread. A simple meal to make, ribollita warms one to the core with its root vegetables, cannellini beans, Tuscan kale and, of course, bread. This simple Italian classic is cheap and nourishing, making it perfect for family get-togethers or a casual meal with friends.
I fell in love with ribollita when my husband and I spent fours months in Florence last year. Not only is it served everywhere, but it's plant-based as well. I remember bumping into my elderly Italian landlord in the hall a few days before we left and that she commented on how good the smells coming out of our apartment were. High praise coming from an Italian nonna!
Use genuine cannellini beans if possible, but navy beans, great northern beans and baby lima beans will do the trick as well. I also recommend you buy the best possible bread and olive oil for this recipe. A crusty loaf will work wonders here, as will a good drizzle of quality extra-virgin olive oil. Ribollita is an informal dish created to use up odds and ends in the kitchen, so don't hesitate to substitute some of the vegetables with whatever you have on hand.
Put olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to fry the garlic.
Add the potatoes, carrots and onions. Stirring frequently, cook until the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes.
While continuing to stir, add the fennel and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the kale and cook until it is completely wilted, about 3 minutes.
Add the canned tomato, beans, vegetable stock, salt and pepper, and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are very soft, at least 15 minutes.
Stir in the fresh lemon juice, turn off the heat and stir in the bread chunks. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes for the bread to absorb the liquid.
Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
Stir well and serve immediately. Finish each bowl with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.