Cold Night, Warm Stew – Ribollita

Cold Night, Warm Stew – Ribollita

Ribollita-garnish-It’s been so cold here in New York the past few weeks, that I’ve been making lots of stews and one pot suppers. Here’s one called Ribollita. It’s a Tuscan bread and vegetable “peasant” soup that I encourage you to try and to make your own.

For me, it’s the fresh Rosemary that makes this dish – if you use dried herbs, it just won’t have that rich, hearty flavor.Ribollita is super healthy and low cal from the greens (high in iron), carrots (fiber and vitamin A), white beans (protein) and just a bit of meat for flavor. Consider this recipe merely a guide. Get creative – add things, make substitutions, use up the leftovers in your ‘fridge and freezer. Have fun with it! Enjoy it alone or with a  side of crusty Italian bread, big chunks of Parmesan Reggiano cheese and a Chianti or Cabernet Savignon – this will keep you warm when it’s only 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside!
Ribollita-ingredients-For example, if you have forgotten something, you’ll learn about it in advance and can simply figure out what substitution to make with no stress. Conversely, if you’re frantically searching for the wine opener, while your vegetables sautee; your garlic could burn way before you ever get the wine opened to deglaze the pan. Burned garlic is a stinky mess and would ruin the flavors of the dish. Be sure to always use the “mis en place” method – it has saved me so many times! (For more about “mis en place“, see the Life is a Banquet Blog post from September 11, 2010.)Remember “mis en place“. Have all your ingredients and tools out, your vegetables washed and chopped, your wet ingredients measured BEFORE you ever turn on the heat to cook. Doing all your prep in advance sounds OCD, but  it makes things so much easier and enjoyable for you while cooking.

Ribollita serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 thick slices pancetta, chopped (or substitute smoked bacon, ham, Chorizo or Italian sausage
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary; remove from stems and finely chop the leaves
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (or corn or squash)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced (or green beans)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cups beef stock (available in boxes on soup aisle)
  • 4 cups, about 1/2 pound, chopped or torn stale bread
  • 2 (15-ounce) small white beans (cannellini or navy beans)
  • 4 cups fresh kale or chard, chopped (or substitute a small box of frozen spinach – be sure to defrost and squeeze out the water before adding it to the stew)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish

Ribollita-ham-carrots-zucchini

Directions-
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add oil and the the pancetta or bacon and render 4 minutes. Add rosemary, garlic, onions, carrots and zucchini and season with salt and pepper.

Saute the veggies and meat 7 to 8 minutes, then add wine and deglaze the pot.

Stir in the tomatoes and stock and bring up the heat.

Ribollita-stock-and-wine-

When stew boils, reduce to a simmer and stir in bread and beans.

This dish makes a lot! So it’s great for a football watching party (instead of chili). However, if you’re cooking for just yourself or for two, this dish freezes really well. Allow stew to cool, then place the amount of an individual serving into a freezer bag. Carefully remove all the air and tightly seal the bag. Remember to write “Ribollita” and the date on the bag before you put it in the freezer (Sharpie markers work well) – otherwise you may not remember what it is later.

Ribollita-bread-

Pile the greens into the pot and wilt them into the stew. Simmer the Ribollita 5 to 10 minutes, stirring as it simmers and until it thickens to a dense, stew-like consistency. A wooden spoon should be able to stand upright in the pot. Turn off heat, adjust seasonings and ladle into shallow bowls. Top with grated cheese or an additional drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Ribollita-Spinach-

To re-heat: Defrost in the microwave just long enough to loosen it from the plastic freezer bag.  Then transfer Ribollita to a microwave-safe glass or pottery bowl for heating.

PLEASE NOTE: Plastic is NOT recommended for reheating in the microwave due to recent studies that show plastic (including plastic wrap) imparts chemicals into your food. Plastic is perfectly safe however, for storing food in the refrigerator or freezer.

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