Bread soup, also known as black cabbage and beans soup, it’s one of the most popular dish in Tuscany, during cold months, it is an old recipe, typical of farmers of all times, one of those dishes you could make each and every single day for months!
It wasn’t so typical at home when my grandma was a child, as her dad didn’t liked it too much, but it was extremely appreciated by her mum and all her family. She used to make it with black cabbage, but she loved it with chard too, as the soup flavour gained sweetness and softness.
Making this soup has been a dive into the past, back to the end of the Nineteenth century, because this white and blue soup tureen belongs to Tommaso and Adele, my grandma’s grandparents, who inherited it when they left the house where they used to live with Tommaso’s brothers and sisters and Maria and Giuseppe, the oldest ancestors we can reach in my grandma’s memories.
I’ve been witness of a powerful stream of consciousness, where people life were told through their objects and treasures, while my grandmother was making this dish.
This white and blue soup tureen was part of Tommaso and Adele treasure, together with a Chinese service that is still showing its past glory into my grandma cupboard.
While grandma was telling me stories about old houses built over Etruscan tombs used as cellar, of long trip to Livorno, on the coast, to visit the wonderful aunt Giulia, Tommaso’s sister, of farmers who used to change house and farm every few years, until they built the house where we are still living, in 1926, I was mesmerized by her hands, that were making this soup with experience.
- a bunch black kale
- ¼ head cabbage
- ¼ savoy cabbage
- 1 medium carrot
- 2 medium potatoes
- 200 g dried beans
- ½ red onion
- 2 to matoes
- Stale Tuscan bread slices
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Boil your beans in a large pot with plenty of water, after they have soaked a night in water. You can do it even the day before, then keep them in their water until it's time to make the soup.
Finely chop the onion and sauté it with olive oil in an large pot.
When the onion is golden and soft, add the peeled and diced carrots and potatoes, the three kinds of cabbage, sliced into strips not too thin. Lastly, add the diced tomatoes. Cover all the vegetable with the bean cooking water, season with salt and pepper and let simmer for about 45 minutes, adding hot water if needed: it should remain quite watery.
Pass through a vegetable mill 2/3 of the beans and add the bean puree to the soup: let it simmer for other 30 minutes.
Black kale has the longest cooking time: so use it check if all the other vegetables are cooked. At the end, add the whole beans, check the flavour and add salt and pepper if needed, then remove from the heat.
Into a large soup tureen make a layer with stale bread slices, cover with some ladles of soup and keep on going until you finish all the ingredients.
Set aside for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.
When the bread soup is cooked again (ri-bollita) the next day, often in a cast iron pan, it turns into the most classic and best-known ribollita.