I wanted to send you a recipe for Ribollita followed by generations of my Tuscan ancestors. Though my Father was from Bologna, my family is Tuscan, from Massa Marittima in the Province of Grosseto more recently, and Terranova Bracciolini in the Province of Arezzo going further back.
This recipe is more than 200 years old, and I had to recopy it onto a fresh sheet because the original, written by my ancestor Teresa Stiatti at the end of the 1700s, is crumbling with age. In any case, here is what I have:
Ingredients for 8 (people always gather when there's ribollita):
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
- 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bunch beet greens, ribbed and shredded
- 1 large stock celery, diced
- 2 medium-sized carrots, diced
- 3 large zucchini, diced
- 1/2 bunch black leaf kale, ribbed and shredded
- 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) fresh Cranberry beans boiled until soft but not mushy (figure 2/3 pound dried, soaked overnight)
- 4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, drained, and chopped
- 1 medium-sized pink onion, chopped
- 1 bunch basil, shredded
- 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
- 1 pound (400 g) fresh peas
- 3/4 pound (300 g) fresh string beans
- 3-day old Tuscan bread (you'll want a loaf, lest you come up short)
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Boiling water
Sauté the onion in the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot (my note: if you have terracotta, it is ideal), and when it has become golden add the diced carrots, potatoes and celery; continue to sauté, adding salt and black pepper (the latter in abundance, hoping none of the diners suffer from hemorrhoids (Roberto's note: This is what she wrote!). Add the tomatoes, basil, and parsley, cook for a few minutes, and then add all the other greens.
Cook five minutes more, and during this time put the cooked beans through a food mill to transform them into a cream; cook, stirring, for ten minutes and then add boiling water (my note: how much will depend upon how much water the greens give off, but at least a quart) and simmer over a medium flame for 2 hours.
When the time is up, take 2-3 ladles of cooked vegetables and put them through a food mill to make a cream of them; this serves to make the soup more liquid, and you can also add a little more water if the mixture looks too dry (my note: you don't want something really watery, but remember that the bread must be able to absorb moisture from the soup). Bring the mixture to a boil, and in the meantime finely slice the bread. Line the bottom of a tureen with a layer of bread and cover it with a layer of soup. Continue alternating layers until all is used up, finishing with a layer of soup. When you are done, let the soup rest for several hours because zuppa Toscana is better eaten cold. Serve every bowl with a dusting of grated pecorino toscano (my note: Romano is sharper, and I might go with Parmigiano in pecorino toscano's absence), a drizzle of olive oil, and a "blessing" (that's what she says) of Chianti.
Roberto says, in closing, that he is certain I'll be happy to have another authentic Tuscan recipe, and he's certainly right. It also shows how effective the root cellars I still sometimes come across out in the country can be, because tomatoes, peas, string beans, and zucchini are summer vegetables, whereas kale is only good after the first frost. We'd be lost without refrigeration today, but in the past they knew what to do.