So, it's not almost spring yet and the weather in the North East of England is still the kind of weather that is perfect for a bowl of comforting soup, like Ribollita.
Ribollita is a hearty Tuscan vegetable soup, though my version is not completely vegetarian friendly. This is not a clear broth soup. In fact, it is not brothy at all, unlike minestrone, and there's no pasta in it. It's more like pappa al pomodoro, as it's thick and based on bread.
I actually made the soup last night to let all the flavours really develop and I must say, it is just delicious. My ribollita perhaps is not authentically Italian. Nothing I cook is authentic, you should know by now. But this is the version I have been cooking since my student years at uni. Also meaning, the ingredients for the soup are economical.
Like many soups and stews, the base vegetables are onions, carrots and celery which I sweat in big pot with some olive oil over medium heat. Salt the veg to prevent them from burning. Stirring occasionally until they are soft. To the pot I add cubes of pancetta, a pinch of red chilli flakes for a bit of heat and several cloves of finely minced garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes, before adding the shredded savoy cabbage and kale leaves. Next is a couple of cans of chopped/crushed tomatoes and chicken stock, just enough to cover all the veg.
Whenever I buy parmesan cheese, I always keep the rind the freezer which I later often use to flavour soup/stews to give nice depth of flavour. So, if you've got some laying around in the freezer, this is a good time to use them. I chuck in a couple of the small ones to the pot. Let the soup comes to a boil and then partially cover with a lid and let it simmer. After about 30 minutes or so, roughly chop/tear some fresh basil leaves and add to the soup. I drain and rinse a couple of cans of cannellini beans and I purée half of them in a food processor with a little chicken stock which will thicken the soup. Simply add the rest of the beans.
The soup will be thicken further by adding chunks of bread. This time I use white country loaf, but use any good quality bread you have. The soup should be thick, but not dry. So, add more stock if it looks to dry to loosen it. Continue cooking over low heat for another 15-20 minutes,
Check for seasoning and adjust the salt and black pepper to your liking. Serve on a shallow bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. And a nice glass of red wine.