This is a thick, hearty potage originating in Tuscany. The combination of beans, bread, herbs and vegetables is a substantial one and will get you through the cold months. It freezes well, too.
Makes 4-6 portions (roughly 80p per portion)
1 large onion, peeled (or 2 smaller ones)
2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable (or chicken) stock cube
2 tins of cannellini/white beans, or borlotti beans
A few handfuls of chopped kale
3 thick slices of white bread
Olive oil, plus extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Salt and Pepper
Heat a generous amount of olive in a large pan (a casserole is good for this). Roughly chop the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and leave to cook in the olive oil with a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are soft and shrunken, stir in the oregano.
Pour in the tomatoes, then fill up the cans with water and add to the vegetables. Crumble in the stock cube, then drain and rinse the beans and add to the pan. Stir and leave this to simmer on a low heat, covered, for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Tear up the bread into chunks, then add to the pan along with the chopped kale. Leave to simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring every now and then to help dissolve the bread. At this point you may need to add more water if the soup is becoming too thick; it should be rich and somewhat stodgy, but not solid.
Finish with a little more seasoning if required, then serve in deep bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on each.
Notes on the Recipe
This is a basic version of the recipe that can be altered, depending on what is available. I have suggested dried oregano as a herb of choice as many students may have it easily at their disposal; bay leaves and chopped fresh rosemary make wonderful alternatives. Meat-eaters could even add a tub of cubed pancetta or bacon lardons along with the vegetables at the beginning. The traditional greenery in Ribollita is cavolo nero, a type of thick Italian black kale. Ordinary kale works well, but other cabbages such as Savoy make fine alternatives. The point of this recipe is that it is relaxed, unfussy, economical and provides ample and comforting nutrition in the darker months of the year.
Author: Kieran Crowley