How to make vegan Ribollita soup. On Mondays, I always like to cook us a vegetable laden, low calorie meal, a sort of detox following the cooking/eating frenzy that I often spend the weekends in. As it’s now halfway through the month and, as usual, most of my money has been spent paying bills (and, er, buying cookbooks), I always find it a challenge to cook something different using just the scraps of ingredients left in the fridge.
Soup is always a good option, being one of the most heart-warming dishes known to man but it isn’t always substantial enough. Enter Ribollita.
What is Ribollita?
Ribollita is an Italian soup, translated as reboiled. What this often refers to, in Italy, is the reusing of the previous night’s Minestrone, mixed in with left over vegetables (in this case, Cavolo Nero or black cabbage) and chunks of stale bread. Re-boiled also refers to the soup often being prepared the day before it is to be eaten, thus allowing the strong flavours to intensify and meld.
This produces a wonderfully thick, rich and hearty soup that is almost a stew. Whilst the word ‘reboiled’ conjures up shuddering memories of school dinners, this is eons away from the cabbage that was to within an inch of its life that we endured at school.
Utilising my own bedraggled and more than a little limp vegetables and stale bread (I am now in the habit of freezing any nub ends of bread that are left, rather than having to buy a loaf simply to make breadcrumbs), plus a tin of butter beans (which are totally untraditional but that was all I had). It must have been a hit though because there were no leftovers so I am unable to state whether or not it is better the next day (although I am sure it is!).
What Beans Can I Use?
White Beans, preferably Cannellini, are traditional, but I used Butter Beans. Butter Beans are not quite as successful because they suffer from a slightly mealy, crumbly texture that tends to cook much quicker than other dry beans. They have a tendency to break up into the soup. However, any bean you have will do really, kidney beans, or pinto beans. You could even soak dried beans and cook them up before adding to the soup.
Do I Have to Use Cavalo Nero?
It is quite hard to get the black cabbage here although it is often available seasonally, and although it has a more anise flavour than the Kale or Savoy, they can be used instead (I used Savoy cabbage). Just make sure that it has dark leaves. White cabbage would give you a more boggy flavour than you want here.
- 1 can White Beans, drained
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 sticks Celery skimmed over with a vegetable peeler, then finely chopped. No one wants celery strands wrapped around their vocal cords. I used the frondy bits that you get on untrimmed celery, which adds a delicious herbal taste to the soup, which otherwise has no herbs in it.
- 2 Carrots peeled, finely diced
- 1 large red Onion peeled, finely diced
- 3 Cloves Garlic peeled, finely chopped
- 1 400g tin Tomatoes
- 1 pinch Chilli Flakes
- 350g Cavalo Nero or Savoy Cabbage
- Couple of Handfuls of stale Bread, torn into chunks
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 2 cups Water
- Lemon Juice to taste
- Gently heat some olive oil in a deep sauté pan (or large saucepan) and sweat off the onion, until translucent.
- Then add the garlic, cooking for a minute or two and then the rest of the vegetables and chilli flakes, excluding the tinned tomatoes and cabbage.
- Leave the vegetables to slowly sauté in the olive oil, amalgamating all their flavours. This is an important step in dish that involves vegetables to be cooked in this manner. It softens them and gives them a united flavour, rather than the odd harsh crunch on a lump of carrot or celery.
- Once the vegetables have been sweating down for 10 minutes or so, add the cabbage, stirring into the diced vegetables thoroughly.
- Cook over a low heat for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage has wilted.
- Pour over the tinned tomatoes, sugar, drained beans, bread and add the water
- Stir gently, and simmer for another half an hour
- Season well with salt and pepper and the lemon juice, drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve in deep soup bowls, maybe with some more bread for dipping.