November 14, 2010 § 4 Comments
Several years ago, Lisa and I found ourselves on a frigid, windy November day in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. The icy wind that knifed through our wool coats was the tramontana — the swift, cold downdraft from the snow-covered Alps to the north that sweeps across Tuscany and sends sightseers indoors in search of some warmth. It was lunch time, and a break from the brisk cold was in order.
And so we made our way into a cozy restaurant with a warm fireplace off the historic square, where we asked our waitress for a recommendation. Without hesitation, she suggested we have the ribollita, a hearty Tuscan minestrone or vegetable soup thickened with stale bread. “Ribollita” means “reboiled” in Italian, and refers to the fact that the soup is usually made the day before or earlier in the day and is reboiled for serving. We found that this delicious, smoky soup chased away the chill, and I made sure to get the recipe. Alas, I lost it and the name of the ristorrante before I could record them, but this recipe is as close to the original as I could find.
Now that the temperatures are dropping and the days are growing shorter, do yourself a favor and make a nice pot of this soup. Pour yourself a glass of hearty Montefalco Rosso or a Chianti Classico and sit by the fire. This soup is cold-weather comfort food par excellence.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling on bread
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 cloves garlic, 1 minced and 1 whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (15-ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) piece Parmesan rind
4 to 6 ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise, or 1 loaf Italian bread or ciabatta, sliced on the bias
Grated Parmesan, for serving
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is golden brown and the pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Add the spinach, beans, herbs, stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Drizzle the ciabatta halves or bread slices with olive oil. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub the top of the toasts with the whole garlic clove. Place the toasts in the serving bowls and ladle the soup over the toasts. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.