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The Hand Off: Tuscan Ribollita with Kale

2011 January 20

By Marc Duquette

Relaying the kale from Sarah’s Warm Kale Salad with Beets & Feta, I sought to create a kale soup that was healthy, hearty, and warm and more resourceful than traditional kale and bean soups.  I quickly narrowed my selection to a veggie-loaded ribollita.

Ribollita is a classic Tuscan soup of peasant origin that utilizes inexpensive, commonly available vegetables, dried white beans and leftover stale bread.  The name ribollita means “reboiled” and references the practice of re-heating a day old minestrone or vegetable soup to which bread is added creating a frugal and filling meal.  Today, “reboiled” is commonly used to indicate the soup’s improving flavor the following day when it is reheated.  There is incredible variation to this dish, however it always includes leafy greens (kale, cabbage, chard or a combination thereof), carrots, celery, and onions, white beans, Italian herbs like rosemary, parsley, basil or oregano and stale bread or breadcrumbs.  About half the recipes call for pancetta, proscuitto or sausage to flavor the dish.  More traditional recipes have you ladle the soup over crusty bread, while others stir in good amount of bread crumbs to create a thick velvety soup.  I’m not a big fan of soggy bread so I opted for a light addition of homemade, whole grain breadcrumbs.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

All the vegetables except for the kale and tomatoes were sourced from the CSA or my own garden as I described in Tuesday’s post.  The celeriac, onions and garlic stored in my root cellar came from the last CSA basket of the winter share.  The potatoes and dried beans were from last summer’s garden; the leeks freshly harvested from the greenhouse this cold January morning.  I snipped fresh parsley from the aquaponics system in my basement.  The remaining ingredients, including the leading actor–organic ‘Dinosaur’ kale, were obtained from A-Market Natural Foods near my workplace in Manchester, NH.  Although I had to purchase the kale this time around, I’ve already ordered seeds to grow my own in next winter’s greenhouse.

This is a simple dish, with simple ingredients that warm and comfort the soul.  For a vegetarian version skip the pancetta and choose a vegetable stock.  If time is tight, you can also opt for canned beans in place of the dried beans.

Tuscan Ribollita with Kale

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Yield: 2 servings


  • 2 cups dried Canellini or Great Northern beans
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2-inch slices pancetta
  • 1 large leek, white part only
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celeriac root, peeled and diced (or 2 celery stalks)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 bunches kale, stemmed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced (peeling optional)
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 to 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cooking Directions

The night before…

  • Soak the beans in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover by several inches. Let sit overnight.

Next day…

  1. Drain and rinse beans, add to a large pot with salt and plenty of water to cover (about two quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 45 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté pancetta over medium heat until crisp and rendered. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. To the pot, add leeks, onion, celeriac, and carrots. Sauté 10 minutes over medium-low heat until onions are soft. Add kale, parsley and garlic. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add drained beans, tomatoes, potatoes, pancetta, and stock. If necessary add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
  5. To finish the soup, stir in the bread crumbs to desired thickness and consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve hot topped with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

    Our home is a common gathering place for family and friends.  I’d like to think it’s my warm personality that draws them here but in reality it’s probably the food.  Our most memorable gatherings always seem to center around great food.  Working in the kitchen in this context is so much more than simply providing sustenance, it’s about learning, bonding, sharing, and just being together.

    So yet again, we gathered; this time to watch some afternoon football and to share a pot of hot soup.