Ribollita. A great winter soup. Italians swear this helps fight the flu/colds, at least that’s what we have been told!

One of my favourite dishes during winter is the ribollita. Perfect for using up old, stale but good quality bread, and easy to put together with seasonal veggies for next to nothing. It’s not minestrone, it’s a beautiful thick, bread-based soup with no pasta in it. You’ll love it even more with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil, and mark my words, make enough for the next day because the flavours are even better! as it isn’t brothy and it has no pasta in it.

It’s very much Italian peasant food and would have been eaten a lot in the days of no central heating and lots of hard manual labour. This recipe embraces the heart and soul of what peasant cooking is all about cheap, tasty power food that warms your soul and keeps you well.

Dr Shane Heslop

Osteopath.  City Osteopathy

INGREDIENTS

                     1 pound dried cannellini beans

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large sweet onion, small-diced
    • salt
    • 2 large carrots, small-diced
    • 3 celery stalks, small-diced
    • 1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and small-diced (2 cups)
    • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and thinly sliced
    • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes, drained
    • Bouquet garni: 2 bay leaves plus a couple sprigs each of fresh sage, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, and thyme, tied together with twine
    • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 pound cavolo nero (a.k.a. dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale), leaves torn into small pieces, stems finely minced
    • 3 cups torn country bread, toasted
    • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Place the beans in a large bowl and add cold water to cover by 3 inches. Cover the bowl and soak the beans in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next day, pour the beans and their soaking liquid into a slow cooker. Add enough fresh water to cover the beans by 2 inches, cover with the lid, and cook on the high setting for 4 hours.
  3. Place a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and when the oil shimmers, add the onion. Season with salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until softened. Add the carrots, celery, butternut squash, and garlic, and cook for 5 more minutes, until starting to soften. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, crushing each one in your hand as you add it. Add the bouquet garni, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 tablespoon of the red pepper flakes. Cook on the low setting for 3 hours.
  4. Uncover the slow cooker, remove the bouquet garni, and add the kale, bread, 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes. Stir the soup well, season with more salt to taste, and serve with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top.