Ribollita (or Italian Bread Soup)

bread soup

An extra hearty vegetarian (or not) soup that can serve as a one-dish meal, Ribollita is Italian peasant food. It’s a great way to use up stale bread and it provides plenty of nutrient-rich leafy greens. Ribollita is rich and satisfying and the beans provide all the protein you need.

It’s a two-step process, but well worth it. I like to cook dried beans from scratch, but if there was ever a recipe in which you could use canned beans without compromising the end dish, this is it.


Serves 6

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 bunch dinosaur kale, tough stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
4 cups shredded savoy cabbage
6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups drained, cooked runner cannellini beans
6 slices hearty, day-old bread, cut from a large loaf, about 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a soup pot over medium heat, warm 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrot and sauté until soft and fragrant, but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and kale and cook, stirring, until well coated and beginning to wilt. Add the broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cabbage and kale are soft (about 45 minutes) The soup can be made up to this point 1 to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With the soup at a slow simmer, add the beans. Cook for about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings. Line the bottom of a 3 or 4-quart Dutch oven or any ovenproof baking dish with 2 of the bread slices. Top with half the soup. Lay 2 more of the bread slices on top of the soup. Add the remaining soup and then remaining bread slices, pushing down on them to submerge them in the liquid. Drizzle the top evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the top is brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Spoon into warmed bowls and serve.

Recipe Copyright Vanessa Barrington 2009

Note: Use organic and local ingredients whenever possible.

Image: skinny diver

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.