The last straggling survivor from the Week 9 box was this lovely crinkly head of Savoy cabbage. (Well, that’s not counting the napa cabbage, of course, but we all know how I feel about that.) I kept putting off cooking it because what I really wanted to make, what I kept fantasizing about until I would catch myself drooling at odd times, was a wonderful dish called ribollita, which is a Tuscan bread soup. I first had this soup courtesy of my mom’s boyfriend, who is an amazing chef, especially of Italian and French cuisine, and I immediately fell in love. That was many years ago, and he gave me the recipe, but I’d never made it on my own. And now, sadly, wheat and I are seriously estranged for health reasons. And I knew that my dense little slices of gluten-free bread were in no way going to make the pillowy bread stew of my Tuscan dreams.
So you know what? I decided to go for it. I got one of my two favorite kinds of bread – potato rosemary – because if you’re going to go down, do it in a blaze of (rosemary-scented) glory. And I prepared the soup, using the whole head of cabbage because the cabbage is one of the best parts. And if I fell immediately asleep with the spoon still in my hand from wheat-induced fatigue (which I truly did) at least my dreams were sweet ones, full of savory warm goodness. What’s “comfort food” in Italian? I’m pretty sure it’s ribollita.
Ribollita (Tuscan Bread Soup)
1 1/4 C. cannellini beans (I used canned – otherwise cook separately until tender)
4 T. EV olive oil
8 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice (I used tempeh bacon)
1/2 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (I skipped b/c I didn’t want to buy a whole thing of celery)
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 head Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch dice (I used the whole head)
1 leek, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 T. tomato paste
4 C. stock*
4 C. water*
6 thin slices coarse-textured white bread (I used potato-rosemary bread – yum!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fruit EV olive oil
1/3 C. grated Parmesan cheese
Place half the cooked beans in a blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding water or broth if necessary. Set beans and bean puree aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is light golden, 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, cabbage, leek, potatoes, onion and tomato paste. Add stock and water to cover by 1 inch. (*I ended up needing more stock and water than recipe calls for because I used more beans, cabbage, etc. I used about 6 cups of each, total.) Simmer until the vegetables are very soft, about 1 hour.
Add the beans and bean puree and simmer 5 minutes. Add the bread and stir together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool one hour or overnight.
To serve, bring to a boil. Serve immediately, drizzled with fruity, high quality olive oil and sprinkled with cheese. (These toppings are not optional toppings – they really complete the soup in an essential way.)
Serves 6 to 8.
I tried to eat this accompanied by a salad of lovely red-leaf lettuce, but I fell asleep before I could get to the salad course!