x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Healthy recipe: Ribollita

Ribollita is a soupy stew filled with vegetables.

Courtesy Scott Price
Courtesy Scott Price

Ribollita is a soupy stew that is filled to bursting with pulses, vegetables and aromatics. It's economic, hearty and healthy and very versatile. This Tuscan peasant dish was invented to use up leftovers, so feel free to adapt this idea and apply it to the contents of your own fridge.

Traditional cannellini beans could be substituted for chickpeas or fresh tomatoes used instead of tinned. Kale is the leafy green vegetable that most often finds its way into this stew, but as it is difficult to get hold of in the UAE, the following recipe uses Savoy cabbage instead.

Another great thing about ribollita is that it is substantial enough to be eaten as a main meal, without any other accompaniment - the vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, carbohydrate comes courtesy of the bread and cannellini beans are a great source of fibre and low-fat protein. Ribollita means "re-boiled" and this soup really does taste better when reheated the next day, after the flavours have been left to intensify. It's well worth making a large batch and freezing any leftovers. The recipe produces between four and six portions but can easily be scaled down if you wish.

Ribollita Serves 4-6

350g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

or 400g tin cooked cannellini beans, drained

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs thyme

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

3 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 courgettes, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

400g tin plum tomatoes

250ml vegetable stock (if using tinned cannellini beans)

300g Savoy cabbage, stalk removed and leaves sliced

100g stale good-quality bread, torn into bite-sized chunks

 

To garnish:

1 lemon, zest only

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

 

If you are using dried cannellini beans, then tip the soaked beans into a saucepan, cover with water, add the bay leaf and thyme leaves and cook until tender (45 minutes to one hour). Drain, reserving the cooking water and remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over a low heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, courgettes and garlic and cook for 20 minutes, until softened but not browned.

Add the tinned tomatoes and the cannellini beans, followed by 250ml of the cooking water (if you cooked the beans from scratch) or 250ml stock, if using tinned beans. Bring the mixture to the boil briefly, season with salt and black pepper, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the Savoy cabbage and bread and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup is quite thick and the bread has started to break down. Add more cooking water or stock if you think it is becoming too dry.

Pour the mixture into serving bowls, scatter over the lemon juice and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.