Tuscan Minestrone Soup
Some of the best Tuscan recipes were once simply known as peasant food in Italy. One of my favorite Tuscan dishes when I was living in Florence, Italy was Ribollita. Literally, the word ribollita mean re-boiled. This recycled soup is a combination of leftover minestrone soup and stale Tuscan bread. It is hard to re-create outside of Tuscany because the key ingredient to it’s texture is Tuscan bread. If you don’t already know, Tuscan bread is made without salt which makes reusing it in soup a perfect ingredient. Try making ribollita with salty breads and you will not get the same result. Believe me, I tried in the past and was not pleased.
Now that I have chosen a gluten-free path, I am no longer cooking up Ribollita, but I have to say that the bread was not the best part of the soup. It really is the cavolo nero. Cavolo nero literally translates to black cabbage, which completely confuses my friends when I refer to it as such. Here in the States you will find it in grocery stores as lacinato kale or dinosaur kale. It is that rich dark-green lacy looking kale. It has longer and thinner leaves than classic green or red kale and it has a more deliciously bitter taste. The kale is what gives this Tuscan minestrone a distinct flavor that differs from other minestrone soups.
I have been making this soup as my winter staple. It gets better with age, so cooking it ahead of time and reheating it to serve later in the day or the next day is a great plan. The chunky vegetables and white beans make it a very filling soup, great for lunch or dinner and it is delicious topped with some grated parmesan (if you are not vegan) and quality extra virgin olive oil.
You will note in the recipe that I do not use onion to make this soup. A classic minestrone would have onion in it but I have been avoiding the allium family for quite some time, and I have to say that this soup doesn’t need it. It is so full of flavor from the fresh vegetables that even allium lovers don’t miss the onion. If you are an onion addict though, use a 1/4 of a medium onion, chopped fine, and add it into the recipe before you add the carrots and celery.
Tuscan Minestrone Soup
4 medium carrots – diced
4 celery stalks – diced
1 medium zucchini – halved and sliced
4 large leaves of lacinato kale – ribbon slices
1 cup cooked white beans (navy, cannelli or cannellini)
1 cup diced tomatoes
salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups water
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a medium/large cooking pot. Once the oil is warmed, add carrots and celery and stir to coat with the oil. Cover and let the vegetables cook for 2 minutes making sure that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Next add the zucchini slices, diced tomatoes, white beans, salt and lacinato kale. Stir and cover for another 3 minutes.
Add 4 cups of water, stir, increase heat to high and cover to bring soup to a boil. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce heat to a medium simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes.
Test texture of the vegetables. If you want your vegetables to have a little crunch, al dente, now would be a good time to turn off the soup. If you want your veggies to be softer, continue to cook up to 10 minutes more.
Remove from heat and let the soup flavors continue to mingle.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese.