In times of need: Ribollita

I was recently talking (er, emailing) with a friend back home about how November is the second-worst month of the year. Top spot, of course, goes to January, the harbinger of seemingly-endless dreary weather and a depressing post-holiday funk. But November is right up there; the prettiness of early Autumn is gone, the rain is almost constant, and as my friend put it, “each day is colder and darker than the last”. Yup, that about sums it up.

If you ask me, the one redeeming quality of November is soup. Dark and dreary days and perfect for hearty, warming soups. Whether creamy, brothy or thick and chunky, a good soup almost always hits the spot. I say “almost” because Andrew doesn’t always agree; for him, some soups aren’t filling enough to be considered dinner fare. However, a certain subset, the stew-like soup, can be counted on in these times of need.


One of my favourites is a classic Tuscan-style Ribollita. Meaning “re-boiled”, this peasant staple was traditionally made by reheating the previous day’s minestrone, adding other leftovers, and serving with bread and cheese. There are countless variations on the recipe, but almost all include a mirepoix base, cannellini beans, tomatoes and a good dose of parmesan cheese on top. Anything you add in addition to that only makes it better; I’ve put everything from bits of steamed veg to leftover rice and pasta in mine. To make it more of a meal, I like my Ribollita with some thick country bread. The choice of white or whole wheat is up to you, as is how to serve it; some recipes call for chunks of day-old bread to be stirred into the soup before serving, and some specify that it should be ladled over the bread in the bowls.

This recipe makes four generous servings. Unfortunately, Andrew wasn’t in a “soup for dinner” mood the day I made this, but really that works out best for me, anyway. For the next four days, I was able to inject a little bit of Tuscan summer into my November lunchtime.



adapted from The Silver Spoon

serves 4

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 spring thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 small potatoes, peeled and in 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 x 400g can cannellini beans
  • 1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups stock (optional- water is fine, too)
  • 3 cups (packed) roughly chopped curly kale
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • thick country bread, for serving
  • parmesan cheese, for serving
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid (I use a Dutch oven). Add the onions, carrots, and celery and turn the heat down to low. Cover and sweat the vegetables for 8-10 minutes, until soft and translucent but not coloured.
  2. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste and stir well. Cook for another minute or two, until very fragrant. Add the chopped potatoes, cannellini beans, and tomatoes. Pour in a little extra stock or water, so that the vegetables are just covered. Bring to the boil, add the kale and turn down the heat so the soup barely simmers. Cover tightly and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour (timing doesn’t need to be exact here), stirring occasionally and adding more stock/water when necessary. When all the veg is tender to the point of a knife, season to taste.
  3. When you’re ready to serve the soup, place thick slices of bread (buttered, if you’re so inclined) in the bottom of the bowls. Ladle over the very hot soup and let it cool for 5 minutes, so that the bread softens. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

10 Responses

  1. Oh, what a wonderful soup! And I love your descriptions of November and January… so true… so true. I can’t wait to prepare this recipe and enjoy on a cold, dreary day.

  2. What a colourful and rich looking version of this soup (top photo)! November over here in Oz is of course the opposite to your November but I feel the same about July! I really get into soup all winter long so I’ll bookmark this for next time around.

  3. I do agree with you and your friend about November and soups, although I prefer January to February, since here, in Spain, Christmas holidays last till the 6-7th (an this year 9th) of January, therefore, the long christmas bill comes in February and there isn’t much to do….and your soup….delicious, as ever

  4. I haven’t felt inspired to cook lately… until now that is. This looks fabulous. Just what I’ve been craving (without knowing it) and I have the perfect bread to go with it as well. Too bad I’m probably going to have to wait until Sunday to make it.

  5. I love stew soups like Ribollita – they really warm your body and soul! I see that you took the recipe from the Silver Spoon! It’s one of the best cooking books I know, like a bible!

    Love the first photo.

  6. Here’s an idea for you – in January come to Australia where
    a) it’ll be summer
    b) and likely sunny
    c) and there are public holidays! Yay!
    Or, you can stay in the UK and make soup. Your choice.

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