Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vegetable Ribollita

Last night we made Vegetable Ribollita for dinner.  What's that, you ask?  I didn't know before making it, either.  According to ever-helpful Wikipedia, ribollita is "a hearty potage made with bread and vegetables."  Wikipedia continues to explain that ribollita--a Tuscan soup dish--dates back to the Middle Ages, when "servants gathered up food-soaked bread trenchers from feudal lords' banquets and boiled them for their own dinners."  After reading such an enticing description, how could I not try this out?

Our hearty potage!

Vegetable Ribollita
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2.5 cups diced onion
  • 3/4 cup sliced celery 
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 3/4 diced carrot 
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 - 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 - 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 
  • 2 cups water (or two more cups vegetable broth)
  • 4 cups cubed sourdough bread (about 1/2 loaf)
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves

First, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, celery, zucchini, carrots, and rosemary, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the vegetables become soft and begin to brown, or about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, tomatoes, basil, and marjoram, and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until cabbage is just tender, or another 10 minutes. Then stir in the beans, vegetable broth, and water.  Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Next, stir in the bread and spinach, increase increase the heat to medium, and cook until the soup thickens, about 10 minutes more. Finally, taste the soup and season with salt and pepper one last time before serving.

Taste:        or     
Wikipedia's description is dead-on when it calls this soup "hearty."  The flavor is simple and subtle without being bland, and each bite highlights a different soup component.  I also really like the fact that this soup has something different going on in it: bread cubes.  However, Simon wasn't as pro-ribollita as Rachel and I were.  He felt that the bread was unpleasantly soggy and he didn't like that the texture was somewhere between a soup and a stew.   
There are a lot of fresh ingredients involved in this soup, but they are all very easy to find in any grocery store.  The great thing about this recipe is that it's not critical that your bread be incredibly fresh.  If your bread is a little old, just toast it before using. 
 Ease of Preparation:    
These vegetables require a fair amount of chopping to prepare.  As always, it will make your life much easier if you chop everything before starting the recipe. 
Non-Vegan friendliness:    
This is a really filling soup and I would feel comfortable serving again as a one-pot meal.  The dish doesn't present much of a wow-factor, but it's a solid dinner.  We also dipped some leftover bread in the soup, and Simon and Rachel melted cheese onto their bread in the toaster oven before dunking. 

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