What it is: Ribollita is a hearty, Italian, winter vegetable soup, thickened with bread.
Where it comes from: The soup is a specialty of Tuscany. The name means “reboiled,” referring to the reheating process the soup undergoes. It originated in the Middle Ages, when feudal nobles banqueted using rounds of bread as plates. At the end of the meal, their servants gathered up the meat-soaked flatbreads and boiled them with whatever vegetables they could find to make their own meal.
What to do with it: Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno in West Town learned to make this dish from the late Delfina Cioni, who cooked until she was in her 90s at her Da Delfina restaurant in Artimino, Italy. “I serve it as a tribute to her in the fall and winter months,” he says. In Cioni’s unique variant, the bread-thickened soup is triple cooked until it forms a crispy crust.
Start the soup at least one day before you intend to serve it.
Piccolo Sogno’s La ribollita
Tuscan thrice-cooked bread and vegetable ‘soup’
Chef Tony Priolo
1/4 cup olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
4 ounces cauliflower florets, diced
4 ounces savoy cabbage, diced
1 leek (white part only), washed and diced
1 bunch cavalo nero (black cabbage), cleaned and chopped
1 potato, peeled and diced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup cooked white beans
1 14-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 quart chicken broth
1 large sprig rosemary
1 to 2 large sprigs thyme
Peel of 1 orange
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 pound Italian peasant bread-diced and oven-dried
Extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Tuscan
In a soup pot over high heat, heat half the olive oil, and add all the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook until the vegetables are semi soft.
Add the cooked white beans and the crushed tomatoes with the juice. Cook 3 minutes and then add the chicken broth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Tie in a piece of cheese cloth the rosemary, thyme, orange peel and peppercorns to make a bouquet garni and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down a simmer for 1 hour.
Refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring the soup to a boil, and stirring constantly, add all the bread until the soup becomes very thick, like a stuffing. Set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a large nonstick saute pan, and add the bread soup. Brown on both sides and serve immediately, garnished with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. 10 servings.