I love real Italian cooking and don’t do nearly enough of it. Many traditional Italian recipes not only taste good but have the benefit of being vegetarian or nearly so, and not too fattening.
I expect there are as many versions of the Tuscan soup ribollita (reheated soup) as there are cooks. This is based on Ursula Ferrigno’s recipe in Bringing Italy Home, and I like it because it’s vegetarian. If you are a confirmed carnivore, you could easily add a ham hock or some bacon. As the name suggests, it’s best reheated the day after you make it.
Vegetables can be varied according to taste and availability. I’m sure in Tuscany it always has cavolo nero in it, but you can’t get that here, so I always use dark green Savoy cabbage.
Oil: you must use the best you can get for drizzling over the top; you can get away with slightly less good for the cooking, but it should be extra-virgin.
175 g dried canellini beans, soaked overnight
1 large onion, sliced
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 leeks, washed, trimmed, and sliced
250 g cavolo nero or Savoy cabbage, sliced
4 tomatoes, peeled if you can be bothered, and chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
other vegetables if wanted: maybe diced fennel or courgettes
dried chilli flakes
stock or water
salt and pepper
fresh herbs (rosemary, bay, parsley)
day-old pain de campagne or baguette, sliced
Heat some olive oil in a large casserole and sweat the onion for a few minutes before adding the carrots, celery, leeks, cabbage, and tomatoes (and any other veg) along with the chilli and half the garlic. Continue to saute gently for 10 minutes.
Add the drained, rinsed beans and stir. Cover with stock or water, then simmer slowly for one and a half to two hours, till the beans are soft. Scoop out around a quarter of the soup and either liquidise or mouli before returning to the pot.
In a small frying pan heat some more oil and gently fry the herbs and remaining garlic for a few minutes to release the scent. Stir into the soup, taste and season. At this point you can set it aside for 24 hours.
To serve, put a slice of bread in each bowl and ladle over the soup. Drizzle liberally with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and parsley..