I know, what an odd title for a blog post. The past few days have been cold and rainy where I live, and, early this morning, I woke up thinking about an event which took place in Florence, Italy. I’ll fill you in on that experience in a moment, but first, a bit about our trip, which took place exactly 15 years ago. My family and I were traveling Italy to celebrate the Jubilee in 2000, and it was an experience of a lifetime. We started in Milan, and the next day we traveled to Turin, where we viewed the Shroud of Turin. Next, on to Padua, which is a great place to stop if you ever find yourself in Northern Italy.
Our hotel in Padua was just down the street from the train station, and my sister and I surprised our mom with a quick train ride for dinner. Our destination was Venice. Ah, dinner in Venice. More about that another time! From Padua, we went to one of my favorite travel destinations: Florence. I have been there many times now over the years, and I always find something new to see and try. I guess I woke up thinking about this trip because the weather in Florence was pretty much like it is today. As I thought this through, I realized that the experience I’m about to share took place Florence 15 years ago this past week. Amazing how life moves, isn’t it?
It was lunchtime, and we were in the Piazza Signoria, the main square in Florence. We were cold and hungry, and there was a little trattoria on the piazza that looked inviting. As I looked at the menu, I saw a very Tuscan dish I had always wanted to try. It was a soup called “Ribollita” which means reboiled Tuscan Minestrone. I know, strange, huh? But my family and I have always loved a good soup, and my mom would make it even on the hottest days of summer. On that cold Florentine day in early October of 2000, I ordered my first bowl of Ribollita.
In Tuscany, when Minestrone Soup is made, it’s usually prepared in large quantities, so that there will be enough left over to make Ribollita the next day. Yep, this is basically a leftover soup, with the addition of some broken up pieces of stale Tuscan bread. Overnight, the minestrone will thicken, and when you reheat it the next day, you simply bring it to a boil, add two bread slices (torn into pieces), and stir until the texture is almost homogenous. Ladle into bowls, and put two teaspoons of good olive oil over each serving. That’s the recipe for Ribollita, and let me tell you, as the Italians like to say when something tastes amazing, my mouth sang the first time I had it, sitting in the Piazza Signoria with my mom and sister. The next day, we would be off to Assisi to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, and after that, on to Rome.
So today, in honor of that authentically Tuscan gastronomical experience, I’m heading out in a few minutes to my Farmer’s Market to buy what I need to make a pot of Minestrone, so tomorrow, I can have a bowl of Ribollita. Here’s a simple Minestrone recipe from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/2 -2 cups hard vegetables, like potatoes, winter squash, turnips, peeled if necessary and cut into smaller than 1/4 inch dice
6 cups vegetable stock (I used Trader Joe’s low salt variety)
1 cup chopped tomato (canned ok, with juice)
1 1/2 – 2 cups soft vegetables, like green beans, cooked beans, zucchini, and greens like kale or spinach
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil for serving
Put 3 tb of the olive oil in a large, deep soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring until the onion softens, about five minutes.
Add hard vegetables, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, then add the stock and tomato; bring to a boil, adjust heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Gook, stirring every now and then until the veggies are fairly soft and tomatoes broken up, about 15 minutes.
Add soft vegetables and parsley and continue cooking about 15 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Add remaining olive oil, and serve.
note: I love rosemary, and I add about a teaspoon, finely chopped, to my minestrone.
To make Ribollita the next day, follow the added instructions above, and enjoy!