Isabelle O'Carroll
Writer and content creator, London

Recipe: Tuscan ribollita soup

Don’t get me wrong, I love dirty food with an unashamed passion, – hi embarrassing Chicken Selects addiction – but really, I truly love eating healthy, homecooked food. That feeling of tucking into loads of delicious veg leaves you feeling lovely inside and out, I also get a real kick from cooking. Daks’ designer Sheila McKain Waid, says around this time of year (London Fashion Week) she’ll start baking to appease any stress or last-minute nerves. This recipe has to be the most soothing, healthy, cosy confection and it’s so good for post-summer blues. Ribollita is a Tuscan soup, meaning ‘twice-boiled’ made from cannellini beans, vegetables and bread it definitely does taste even better the next day. The bread melts into the soup to give it a creaminess that makes it perfect rainy day comfort food.

I usually scour through recipes to get a feel for what the bare bones of a dish are and this time I looked at recipes by Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten as well some authentic recipes from the region in Italy. With so many vegetables it is fairly time-consuming but totally worth spending time on, it also means you can make a quick stock from all the peelings.

Ingredients (serves 8 greedy people)
One head of spring greens
500g cavolo nero or kale
2 onions
3 carrots
2 potatoes
one leek
3 courgettes
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
fresh or tinned tomatoes
two tins of cannelini beans or freshly cooked dried ones (about 800g)
meat bones (whichever you can get your hands on)
parmesan rind
lardons (optional)
1/3 of a white bloomerish loaf, sliced
thyme, parsley, chopped
chilli flakes
veg stock
black pepper, salt

Put your biggest pan on the boil with hot water, your meat bones and the parmesan rind (you can save and freeze parmesan rinds for stock, if you want to be a massive nerd about it). Then start chopping all your veg into smallish dices, you want this soup to be slightly chunky but still loose and jiggly. Begin with the onions, frying off in a large, heavy frying pan with a big pinch of chilli flakes. Then do the carrots, leek, potatoes and then courgettes, adding each to the pan when it’s done. While you’re on the chop, transfer any peelings to the stock pot, by the time you have cooked off all the veg it will be perfect.

Add masses and masses of freshly ground black pepper to your vegetables, this is one of the main flavour components. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, parsley and thyme, reserving some parsley for the end. Keep this lot bubbling away with the lid (you want to keep all the nice veg water) and check on the stock. If all the meat on the bones looks cooked and the veg bits have melted strain the lot into a big bowl, rinsing out your pot. Return to the veg – which should all be cooked through by now – and whizz up just under a third of the veg before throwing the lot in the big pot. Whizz one of your tins of beans (or half the dried, cooked beans if using) and add all this to the pot, on a gentle heat with the lid on.

Decadent Westerners may at this point want to fry some lardons in your pan, there’s little doubt that Tuscan peasants would have been flush with meat but if you feel like you want it, do it. At this point it’s time to warm the slices of bread in the lardons pan (to catch all the flavour) and pour in your stock. Let this bubble away for a bit, while you shred the bread into little chunks and drop into the soup. To be perfectly authentic you can layer the bread slices in an ovenproof dish and pour the soup over to let it gently simmer in the oven. This sounds good but I think I would have kind of lost the will to live by that point. Right at the end, stir in your greens, you can choose from a mix of savoy cabbage, spring greens, kale and cavolo nero and I like to add a bit of parsley.

I like to serve in bowls, with a little grated pecorino and preferably under a blanket, watching some kind of sleepy detective show, with some biscuits for after, but that’s just me.

Isabelle O'Carroll: I’m a writer, content designer and consultant with 11+ years’ experience across fashion, food and drink and the arts.

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