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KITCHEN CORNER: Ribollita recipe

I first came upon Tuscany in a movie. It was the summer holidays between Years 7 and 8 and Blanka and I would spend our days in the pool and our evenings watching films we’d borrowed from the local video store. This was before DVDs and before Colin Firth dove, almost shirtless, into a lake in the 1995 serialised Pride and Prejudice. Instead, we had the film version of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View. And, yes, that penis scene. 


The story of a young girl trapped by staid English conventions, awakened by the passion of Florence resounded with us (Catholic school girls from the safe and secure suburbs of Sydney) -  as did a young Julian Sands.


Years later, in Italy, I searched out the fields and public square that I’d come to know so well. And food was intrinsic to those experiences. No appreciation of that iconic landscape is complete without absorbing the produce taken from it.


So today we make ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable soup, which translates to ‘reboiled’, which, according to Eataly, indicates leftover soup thickened with day-old bread. 


This kind of dish is typical to la cucina povera, a traditional style of Italian cuisine that literally translates to "poor cooking”. Cucina povera was developed by frugal Italian cooks who made the most with what they had - which is in keeping with a Tuesday night in our house.



(recipe courtesy of Eataly)


Serves: 8 




1 bunch Tuscan kale, cut into 2-inch ribbons

1 head savoy cabbage, cut into 2-inch ribbons

1 bunch Swiss chard, cut into 2-inch ribbons

2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes

2 zucchini, diced

1 rib celery, diced

2 leeks (white parts only), sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 cups cooked cannellini beans, half pureed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

Leaves of 1 sprig of thyme

Fine sea salt, to taste

1 to 2 cups (2-inch) cubes stale bread



  1. Place the olive oil, leeks, and garlic in a large pot over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks and garlic are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. 
  3. Add the potatoes and zucchini and cook, stirring, until softened, about 8 more minutes. 
  4. At this stage, add the kale, cabbage, and chard, and cook – always stirring! – until the greens are very soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juice, squeezing the tomatoes between your fingers to break them up. 
  6. Add 2 quarts of water, the bay leaf, the thyme, and all of the beans. Season to taste with salt.
  7. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
  8. Add the bread cubes to the soup, and simmer until the bread is breaking apart and the soup is very thick, about 10 minutes. 
  9. Let the soup rest off the heat for several minutes, and then ladle into warmed bowls. 
  10. Drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over each portion before serving.


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Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 7 August 2018

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