This is probably a contradiction in terms. Ribbolita is at its best the next day. But it is such a good winter warmer, such a hearty, filling, healthy, cheap mid-winter vego meal, that I needed to rise to the challenge of making it make-able mid-week.
There is one cheat in it, and you need a pressure cooker for the cheat. I use dried beans, not canned beans, so they have to be pre-soaked. My homegrown Blue Lake substitute well for the cannellini beans that are traditional in this recipe, and if I remember to put them in water to soak before I leave in the morning, the rest comes together in half an hour, including vegetable stock from scratch. If you use cooked beans and pre-made stock, it can be made in minutes.
The recipe is versatile – there’s lots of varieties and substitutions you could make. The essence is a winter vegetable and bean soup thickened with sourdough bread.
Makes about 4 good sized serves. The leftovers are even better the next day.
Soak half a cup of cannellini beans (or substitute another bean) in water for the day.
In a pressure cooker over a high heat, fry in a little olive oil:
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- a cup of diced pumpkin
As soon as they start to get a little colour, add
- the stems from a bunch of parsley, chopped
- the leaves from about 6 small stems of celery, chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- a good pinch of salt
- grinding of black pepper
- juice of half a lemon
- 5 cups of water
Drain the beans and put them in the little colander that goes in the pressure cooker. If you put that in the pressure cooker, the beans should be submerged in the stock. They can cook along with the stock but be separated easily at the end.
Put the lid on and pressure cook for 8 to 15 minutes till the beans are soft. My homegrown Blue Lakes cook in just 8 minutes, but the older and harder your beans are, the longer they will take.
While the stock and beans are cooking, in another pot, fry in a little olive oil:
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 6 stems of celery, finely diced
- 6 leaves of cavolo nero kale
As soon as they get a bit of colour, add a cup of water and simmer gently while the stock and beans are cooking.
Carefully take the little colander of beans out of the pressure cooker. Check they are cooked and add to the soup. Strain the rest of the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to squeeze out the juices. Discard the vegetables. (I know, it seems like a waste, but they were mostly trimmings anyway and everything except the fibre is now in the stock, and this soup has plenty of fibre.)
Now you have a choice. You can just tear three thick slices of sourdough bread – about 2 cups worth of bread – into little bits and put them in the bottom of the bowls, for serving the soup over, or you can blend the bread into the stock. I like the latter, but I like thick creamy soups.
So my method is to pour the stock into a blender or food processor with the bread. Blend till smooth and pour into the soup. Stir in a handful of chopped parsley.
You should have a very thick hearty vegetable and bean soup. Heat it all back up, stirring as it will stick and burn on the bottom easily after the bread has been added.
Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. I like to add a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce just to give it a bit more depth.
Serve with a good grating of parmesan on top.