Ribollita is a hearty Tuscan vegetable stew. The Italian word “ribollita” means “reboiled.” It was originally made by reheating leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day. One Wiki entry says that this custom is traced to the Middle Ages, when servants “gathered up food-soaked bread trenchers from feudal lords’ banquets and boiled them for their own dinners.”
I like to start this on a cold winter day sometime in the early afternoon. The flavors in this soup blend nicely while cooking slowly, and the addition of bread at the end transforms what would otherwise be an average soup into a tasty stew. A dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table, along with toasted bread, make this recipe one of my family’s favorite meals.
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 white onion (chopped fine)
3 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 bunch lacinato kale (stems removed, leaves cut into ribbons)
2 medium zucchini (cut into ½-inch pieces)
14-ounce can diced tomatoes (drained)
14-ounce can red kidney beans (rinsed & drained)
3 cups boiling water
1½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 slices thick bread
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (finely grated)
Thick slices of peasant bread (toast and serve at the table)
Plug in your slow cooker and set the heat to high.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and red-pepper flakes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add kale and cook until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Using the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon oil then add zucchini, and cook on medium-high until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer zucchini to slow cooker along with tomatoes, beans, boiling water, and bouillon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 3 hours.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium. Add bread and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crisp. Let cool slightly, then tear into 1-inch pieces and stir into stew in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for one hour more.
Transfer stew to a large serving bowl, sprinkle grated cheese on top, and drizzle with a little more oil. Bring additional grated cheese to the table (I like my Ribollita with more than a sprinkling of cheese).