This recipe, in its contemporary version, is definitely not medieval. Dante could never have tasted it or even dreamt about that: it contains tomatoes, beans and potatoes that where unknown in Europe for another two centuries after Dante’s time.
Yet, if we ignore details, and look at the big picture, “Ribollita” spirit is deeply medieval.
Soup, generally speaking, has been a very common way to process food since ancient times: cooking techniques were not hyper-advanced and controlling the heat was an issue. Imagine cooking your meal on a big fire, day after day. Boiling vegetable or meat in a liquid environment was an effective way to avoid burning food. Beside that, cooking inside a pot is a smart way to avoid the reduction of food volume (dehidration) provoked by other cooking tecniques (see rosting for instance).
Ribollita is served on slices of bread, and this is also a “very medieval” serving method. Flat bread (or bread slices) were used as dishes at the table of the wealthier and then re-used in the kitchen for servant. Re used or….”re-boiled”
Finally, Ribollita main ingredients are black kales / “cauli”, one of the main characters of italian medieval food. Among its many virtues, it is available in winter time and easy to preserve.
We recommend eating Ribollita, one of the most iconic dishes of “cucina fiorentina”, in order to “feel the mood” of what a medieval soup could have been. Should you want to try a REAL medieval recipe, see the related post.
1 bunch Tuscan kale, cut into 2-inch ribbons
1 head savoy cabbage, cut into 2-inch ribbons
1 bunch Swiss chard, cut into 2-inch ribbons
2 cups peeled tomatoes
1 rib celery, diced
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
extra virgin olive oil
bay leaf, sprig thyme
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 big loaf of bread
Sauté sliced carrots and celery in a pot with onion and olive oil. Cook until the vegetables have softened but not browned. Add the potatoes until they soften. Add the kale, cabbage, and chard, and cook until the greens are very soft.
Add the tomatoes and their juice. Add herbs and season to taste.
Add half the beans, smashed.
Cook very slowly, approx 1 hour. If necessary add water.
Once cooked, add the second half of beans, without mashing.
Let it rest on its pot 24/48 hours.
Re-heat and serve on abundant sliced bread