Ribollita is the famed Tuscan bread soup made with white beans and black kale. I make it without the bread, because let’s face it, who needs the extra bread? Personally, I want a soup I can binge on without adding calories.
A good vegetable soup is a work of art. Before tackling this one, it was essential that I studied first with the masters: the Italians themselves. It would have been a lot easier to perfect this soup if I’d had a Tuscan mother who fed me ribollita regularly. My mother was more of the Lean Cuisine type, so I had to actually live in Tuscany to study this soup up close. (And by the way, the best way to study cooking is by eating!)
This recipe is far from being a whimsical creation on a cold and soupy night. I have been eating in preparation for this soup for 18 years. I have fallen asleep many a late night with Italian-language cookbooks scattered all over the bed while reading and rereading recipes by trusted sources. I have talked the ear off of enough Italian mammas in order to understand what makes their ribollitas so incredible. And I have made enough variations on this minestrone theme to know that I have finally arrived.
It is my honor to share this soup — a favorite of my cooking students in Los Angeles — with you.
Important note: Soup should taste like pure love. This one takes a little time, but is well worth it. It makes a lot and freezes well. Remember to love every ingredient as you chop it. Love every ingredient as you sauté it. And love the whole cauldron as it simmers.