Peasant soup of cannellini beans, tomatoes, onion, greens, and thickened with browned-butter breadcrumbs.
After a parched winter, we’re enjoying a week of welcome rain here in northern California. It’s a soothing rain that ebbs and flows, with short breaks not quite long enough to leave the umbrella at home, but feeding the soil long enough to make my garden happy. The kale and Swiss chard have doubled in size, with large colorful leaves reaching out wide to meet the rain; while the leeks awaken and thicken, nurtured in the wet darkness of their sandy beds.
I love the comfort of rainy days that give me permission to stay inside without guilt; reflections my companions. A quiet time to relax; to slow down and exhale. And make hearty soups that seep into my body and warm me with a hug. Like ribollita.
Ribollita is a soup that is thought to have originated in the Tuscany region of Italy. The name literally means “reboiled” and was made by reheating leftover vegetable soups from the previous day. I’ve seen many variations over the years, but this hearty potage always includes cannellini beans, leftover bread, and inexpensive vegetables. The beauty of this soup is that it can be made with the odds and ends of vegetables we all typically have at any given time in our pantry. No hastily scheduled trip to the market, shopping list in hand; no judicious measuring at the stove. This is a classic, simple peasant soup.
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans (Flageolet beans can also be used)
- 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- Olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 large fennel bulb, sliced in long slivers lengthwise
- 1/2 Serrano pepper, seeded, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- Sprig of fresh rosemary
- 1 bunch greens (kale, Swiss chard, or spinach)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup browned butter breadcrumbs , or cubes of bread made the same way
- grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Cook the dried beans, if using dried.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Toss the halved cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and lay out on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake until the tomatoes are puckered, but still a little juicy, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, and add the onion, fennel, and Serrano pepper. Sauté until soft, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the tomatoes, broth, greens, and rosemary. Simmer until the greens are tender. Add the cooked beans and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in the breadcrumbs and grated cheese; ladle into warm bowls.
Share with a salad and a hunk of warm bread.