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Florence, Italy: My Ribollita Recipe and the Italian Food Crisis

Updated on July 17, 2016

Christine's Zuppa Ribollita

hearty, healthy and delicious
hearty, healthy and delicious

Love, Betrayal, and Intrigue in Renaissance Florence

Iron-Rich & Super Healthy Cavolo Nero (Black Kale)



traditional Tuscan seasoning: garlic, sea salt, rosemary and sage
traditional Tuscan seasoning: garlic, sea salt, rosemary and sage

A Templar must choose between God and forbidden love.


When this shocking news was announced on an Italian TV program, my husband and I looked at one another in disbelief. With so many people going hungry in the world, how can we as a society be so irresponsible?

Just because you can afford to throw away food, does not mean that you should.

According to the news report, there are now campaigns to encourage people to go back to cooking the way their grandmothers did. Finally, some common sense!

All of my female ancestors came from the "old country" and followed old world traditions. In the past, people didn't throw out any food because it was scarce and expensive. Leftovers were creatively recycled and just about every edible part of an animal was consumed.

When my parents first arrived in North America, they had very little. Despite our lack of wealth, our table was always abundant with simple, wholesome food because my mother was an excellent cook. She also knew how to reinvent leftovers. Since I am the eldest child, I remember those days quite clearly...and I am grateful for them because it taught me to be frugal and to use my imagination, just like my mother did.

Tuscan cuisine is peasant food. Despite today's attempts to glamorize it in fancy restaurants by charging exorbitant prices- it is still the food of the poor. The Mediterranean diet is simple and seasonal, and full of leftover recipes. Old bread is turned into Panzanella, Pappa al Pomodoro or Zuppa Ribollita.

Leftover cooked meats are either thrown into soups or ground up with fresh parsley, onion, spices and breadcrumbs and then stuffed into bell peppers- or made into meatballs, cooked in olive oil until brown and crisp on the outside.

Leftover cooked vegetables can be turned into a frittata or added to soups and pasta dishes. Animal organs are eaten on a regular basis, like chicken liver pate on toast. In other words, very little goes to waste here. Many people in the countryside are still following these old traditions and old recipes.

In the spirit of being socially conscious, I am offering perhaps THE most famous of all soup recipes in Tuscany: Ribollita. There are several versions, but this is how I make it. Try it out, let me know what you think.

NOTE: I don't do exact weights or measurements, so if you like one vegetable more than another, use it according to your personal taste. This is a guideline for your soup, so go ahead and experiment. Also, if you have some vegetables that are getting a bit too ripe, use them in a soup before they spoil.


1/2 - 1/3 day old loaf of bread

medium bunch of cavolo nero (black kale)- washed and chopped

1/2 medium head of cabbage- washed and chopped

3 carrots- peeled and sliced

1-2 stalks celery- sliced (I did not use it today since I forgot to buy it at the grocery store)

1 large onion- thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic- chopped

1/2 red bell pepper- chopped

1 large tomato- chopped (or if you want to cheat: 3/4 c tomato sauce)

generous splash of red wine

1 can of cannelinni beans- drained (or you can make them from scratch, but I cheated)

pepperoncino- to personal taste (I like it hot)

1 large vegetable bouillon cube (or 2 small ones)

* Salamoia seasoning OR use salt, rosemary and sage to personal taste

olive oil

* Salamoia is the traditional Tuscan herb mix that can be used in several ways.

1. Fill a big soup pot about 1/2 full of water and begin boiling the black kale on high heat. NOTE: this vegetable takes a long time to cook, which is why I give it a head-start. Be sure to cut the stalks short since they can be a bit tough.

2. While black kale is boiling: in a separate pan, sauté onion, red bell pepper and carrot. Set aside.

3. At this point, add cabbage and vegetable bouillon to the black kale that is boiling and cook them together for about 30 min.

4. Add the onion, red bell pepper and carrots to the black kale and cabbage. Add tomato and red wine, along with all the seasonings. Lower heat from high to medium, cover and simmer for about 30 min.

5. Stir the soup, making sure that it does not get too "dry"- add some water if this is the case. Simmer for an extra 30 min.

6. While soup is simmering, tear up the old bread into small pieces. Throw them in the soup and continue simmering on low heat for another 15-30 min. Remove soup from heat and allow it to just sit, covered, for 10-15 min. before serving. NOTE: the longer the soup simmers and sits there, the better it will taste.

7. Serve in a deep bowl and generously drizzle with good olive oil. So delicious and so good for you!!!

Thank you for reading!

C. De Melo
Author & Artist


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    • REALfoodie profile image

      C De Melo 7 years ago from Florence, Italy and WORLDWIDE

      Thanks for your comments, everyone! I appreciate them so much. Glad you all liked the recipe- it's a classic here in Tuscany. I'll post another "leftover recipe" very soon.

      @rkhyclak: I like the idea of tossing the veggies and sauce in the freezer! Brava!

    • WebsiteDesigner profile image

      WebsiteDesigner 7 years ago

      I make lots of 'leftovers' soups too ... I will have to try this recipe - sounds and looks delish!

    • rkhyclak profile image

      rkhyclak 7 years ago from Ohio

      I hate wasting food! I make a lot of soup as a result. This one sounds delicious. One thing I do is throw any leftover cooked vegetables (along with sauce, if there was any) in a gallon bag and toss it in the freezer-makes great soups!

    • profile image

      Michele 7 years ago

      Nice idea, I will make this for my grandmother!