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Ribollita (Italian Bread Soup)

Bowl of bean, bread, and vegetable stew garnished with Parmesan cheese

This is our go-to recipe for ribollita, shared with us by Peter Miller, author of Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal and How to Wash the Dishes. He also runs a famous bookstore in Seattle dedicated to architecture and design.

Peter tells us, “Learn to make ribollita and then each time that you have stale bread, you will be cheered.”

  • 2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Cranberry or Marcella beans, plus 1 cup of their broth
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or more bean broth
  • 1 cup olive oil (divided use)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig, minced
  • Pinch of red chile flakes
  • 2 cups peeled fresh tomatoes (or chopped canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano)
  • 2 cups chopped Swiss chard (or kale or large spinach)
  • Parmesan rind
  • 2 cups good stale bread cubes, crust removed
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving

Serves 4 to 6

  1. In a small saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat, heat the bean broth and vegetable broth.
  2. In a soup pan over medium heat, warm a good layer of olive oil. Sauté the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt; cook until softened, about 5 more minutes. Add the parsley, rosemary, chile flakes, and tomatoes; cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add the Swiss chard and a little bit of water to loosen the mixture as needed; cover and cook until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the warmed broth to the soup. Add the beans and Parmesan rind; bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the bread cubes to the soup, and a good pour of the remaining olive oil; stir well and cover the pan to dissolve the stale bread.
  6. Reduce heat to low; cook for 30 minutes, checking liquid levels regularly. The bread will first absorb the soup, then lose itself and become the soup. Taste for salt and add a final pour of olive oil. Remove the Parmesan rind.
  7. Serve the soup in bowls topped with black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


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