Recipe: Ribollita (Tuscan Vegetable Soup)

Recipe: Ribollita (Tuscan Vegetable Soup)

Winter isn’t coming, it’s here. that means it’s the perfect time for soup! Here’s a hearty feed that’ll chase away those winter blues.

Makes a very large pot of soup
Olive oil
4 to 6 slices of thick smoked bacon, chopped (the more bacon you use, the more intense the bacon flavour)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced (use the white and light-green part only. If you don’t have a leek, add an extra onion)
4 to 6 garlic cloves, crushed (or 4 to 6 tsps of minced garlic from the jar)
1 to 2 tsps of dried red chilli flakes (optional)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 to 4 potatoes, diced
1 zucchini, diced
8 cups of chicken stock (salt reduced)
810g can of crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp of tomato paste (optional for flavour)
¼ to ½ Savoy cabbage, shredded (to your personal preference)
1 to 2 tsps of dried thyme (or to taste – it can take over)
2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (white kidney beans or fasolia beans)
Salt and pepper
6 to 8 slices of day-old, stale white bread, crusts removed and torn into chunks (sourdough, Pane di Casa or crusty breads are really good)

Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese can be used.

Pour a little olive oil over the top of the soup before serving, if you want a traditional finish.

Add or omit whatever vegetables you want. Traditionally, kale and/or char are added.
The addition of green beans is also good.


  • Heat a heavy-based, large pot or your camp oven over medium/high heat and add a little olive oil and the slices of bacon. 
  • Sauté the bacon until lightly browned. Remove and drain on some paper towel.
  • Add more oil to the pan if needed and add the leek, onion, garlic, red chilli flakes, celery, carrot, potatoes and zucchini, and sauté over a med/high heat for about five mins, or until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the chicken stock, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, Savoy cabbage and thyme. Bring them to a simmer. Season to taste.
  • Puree one can of the cannellini beans (you can use a fork or potato masher). Combine them with one cup of the soup liquid, mix well, and then add to the soup and stir .
  • Add the remaining whole beans and the browned bacon. Mix through the soup.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer very gently for another 45 mins to an hour, stirring occasionally (the bigger the vegetables pieces are, the longer the soup takes to cook).
  • When ready, remove the pot from the heat and add the bread, gently stirring through. 
  • Check seasoning.
  • Leave the soup to rest for at least one day. The longer it sits, the better it gets.
  • The next day, it’s ready to reheat and serve.
  • The final consistency of the soup has a lot to do with the type of bread you use, and the amount.

To achieve a thick consistency, you don’t need potato, pasta or rice – all you need is old, stale bread. This technique of thickening soups is commonly used in Mediterranean soups, with the bread adding texture and bulk. You can control the thickness of the soup with the amount of bread you add: the denser the bread, the thicker the soup – since dense bread absorbs more liquid than lighter bread.

It’s a great way of using leftover stale bread, and a good way to use up lots of vegetables.

This recipe is based on a classic, hearty Tuscan and it’s full of body and flavour. It might not be completely traditional, but it tastes great. It needs to be cooked and then left for at least day or so – Ribollita means re-boil. Like most soups, it tastes better after two or three days.

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