This hearty Tuscan vegetable and bean soup called ribollita is one of the most popular soup recipes on my site. So thick, it’s more like a stew. After making it recently, I decided to update the post and simplify the recipe. So if you’ve never made ribollita, now is the time. I’ve included options for grain-free, dairy-free and vegan eaters.
Ribollita in Siena, Italy
Famed for its cuisine, art, cathedral and Il Palio horse race, Siena is an ancient medieval and historic marvel. It’s the scene of storybooks, postcards and movie sets. Exploring cobblestone alleyways and stopping at every turn to take photographs left us in need of a warm lunch. A small unassuming restaurant close to our hotel looked like just the spot. How how could we resist a restaurant named for an Italian grandmother?
Osteria Nonna Gina & Ribollita
We were seated at a small wooden table, watching as the cozy dining room quickly filled with local families. You’ll find a hearty vegetable soup called Ribollita everywhere in Tuscany. In English, Ribollita means “reboiled”. Ribollita is a way for thrifty Tuscan cooks to use leftover vegetables, bread and beans from the week.
A steaming bowl of ribollita arrived. We sprinkled a little fresh Parmesan cheese over the top, and with every bite quickly learned why this soup was famous. Complete with a good glass of local Chianti, we had a warm and comforting lunch. I knew I had to make it at home.
Cooking Ribollita at Home
I found inspiration from Ina Garten, then adapted it to recreate what we enjoyed in Italy. With so many vegetables, there is a bit of prep work to making ribollita, but think of it as great knife skills practice. You can do your prep ahead and cook when ready. Originally I used pancetta, but prosciutto is easier to find so my updated recipe uses that.
Ingredient Notes and Dietary Options
- For vegans or vegetarians, use vegetable broth and omit the prosciutto
- Homemade vegetable broth is easy to make and beats the store stuff. Here is my recipe. Make it and freeze in batches
- For gluten-free bread I use this gluten-free sourdough (no dairy, eggs, soy, vegan and GF). Found it frozen at Whole Foods or locally at Mothers Market
- If you use regular sourdough and not gluten-free, the slices are much larger, so start with half
- For dairy-free, skip the Parmesan cheese as garnish
- If you do not eat pork, skip the Prosciutto (or Pancetta)
- For grain-free, skip the bread cubes, it is great without just not as thick
- If you have mixed dietary preferences in your home, you can use the crisped Prosciutto as a garnish instead of cooked in so each person can choose.
- My original recipe used pancetta, but Prosciutto is more widely available. If you use pancetta, drain off excess fat or use it to cook the onion.
Originally posted 1/17/2011
Ribollita | Tuscan Vegetable Soup |Siena, Italy
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided use
- 3 ounces prosciutto chopped
- 1 large onion diced, 2 cups
- 3-4 large cloves garlic chopped fine
- 1 cup diced carrots 2 large
- 1 cup diced celery 2-3 ribs
- 1 cup diced fennel bulb 1 medium bulb
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cups chopped kale 5-6 large leaves without center ribs
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans rinsed and drained
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth preferably homemade
- 4 slices gluten-free sourdough bread, cubed small crusts removed (1 1/2 -2 cups)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese optional
- Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large heavy pot (5 1/2 quarts) over medium heat. Add Prosciutto and cook until crisped, 4-5 minutes. Remove Prosciutto from the pot and set aside to be added back later.
- Add the rest of the oil to the pot and add the onion. Cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add the carrots, celery and fennel and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the dried herbs, then stir in the kale, salt, and black and red pepper, cook 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, beans, broth and bread cubes. Turn heat up and bring soup to almost a boil, then put a lid on the pot and turn the heat to low. Add the Prosciutto back in and cook for another 15 minutes. Kale will be tender and bread cubes will melt into the soup. Remover lid, stir in basil, and serve. Ladle into bowls, top with Parmesan to serve if desired.