Tuscan White Bean Stew

Ribollita is an authentic Tuscan stew. It literally means “reboiled” in Italian because it was inspired by what ingredients were available at hand. It originated as a peasant dish in the Middle Ages. Ribollita always included a mix of beans, vegetables, and bread to make a hearty stew. The first time I had this soup was when I studied in Florence, Italy, and it quickly became one of my favorite family style meals. On a cold, rainy day, this soup is sure to warm the heart and soul. I always enjoy adding a touch of extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes on top to spice it up a little. 

I am so happy to bring back some of Italy to my homeland and share it with you and my family in this recipe. It’s a great dish to make on a Sunday and enjoy for the next couple days. You can add fresh kale or spinach when you reheat the soup to pack in more flavor and nutrition. It only gets better as it sits, because the flavors have more time to blend together and “marry.” 

Ingredients (Serves 10, 20 half-sized servings)

For the croutons:
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the soup:
  • 2 cups dried cannellini white beans, picked over and rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained
  • 6 cups water 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided into two ¼ teaspoon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus 6 springs
  • 2 low-sodium cups vegetable stock or broth

1. To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, mix 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, and sliced bread together. Mix well and spread on a small sheet or roasting pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once during cooking. 

2. In a large soup pot over high heat, combine the white beans, water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender, 60 to 75 minutes. 

3. Drain the cooked beans, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leaf. Place the cooked beans into a large bowl and save the cooking pot for later use. 

4. In a small bowl, combine the 1/2 cup reserved cooking with a 1/2 cup of cooked beans. Mash with a fork to form a paste. Stir in the bean paste to the rest of the cooked beans. 

5. Return the cooking pot to the stove top and add the 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and carrots, and sauté until the carrots are tender crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper, chopped rosemary, bean mixture and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. 

6. Ladle the stew into warmed bowls and sprinkle with 4 croutons per serving. Garnish each bowl with a rosemary sprig and serve immediately. 

Also appropriate for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Serves 20
 Serves 10

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