Ribollita & Minestra di Pane serves 6
Minestra di pane and ribollita are two of the best uses for sliced Tuscan bread (crusty, firm of crumb, and without salt). Tuscans make this hearty winter soup with cavolo nero also called black leaf kale, a long-leafed variety of winter cabbage whose leaves are a very dark purplish green. When it's reheated the next day, Minestra di Pane becomes Ribollita, and is even better!
1 pound (500 g) dried white beans, washed and soaked for three hours
A small onion, a small carrot, a six inch stick of celery, and a small bunch of parsley, minced together
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound (500 g) cavolo nero (black-leaf kale in English), shredded
1 pound (500 g) beet greens, ribbed and shredded
1/2 pound (250 g) potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt, pepper, and a sprig of thyme
Thinly sliced day old Italian or French white bread
Olive oil (to be used at the table)
Boil the beans in lightly salted water. When they’re almost cooked, sauté the onion mixture in the oil, in a heavy bottomed pot. When the onion has become translucent, add the tomato paste and the liquid from the beans. Add the cabbage, beet greens, and potatoes. Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a sprig of thyme. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked (taste a piece for doneness), and remove the thyme. Take an oven-proof serving dish and fill it with alternating layers of thinly sliced bread and soup, making sure the bread is damp, until the soup is used up.
Served immediately, this dish is called minestra di pane, or bread soup. However, it improves dramatically with age, so much that when it’s reheated and served the next day it’s called ribollita, reboiled.
Serve it as a first course, with a cruet of extra virgin olive oil so your diners can sprinkle it into their soup according to their taste.