This soup is hard to mess up. Incorporate whatever's left over. Every family's ribollita is different, and the same family makes it differently every time. Easily double quantities for a dinner party or save some in the freezer for a week.
The ribollita mentality is one the Batali clan heartily embraces, especially in the winter months when we're burrowing in from the Michigan or New York City cold. The idea of cooking what's available and fresh is not reserved for summer.
This recipe for broccoli and white bean soup is unlike ribollita in that there is no cavolo nero (often called Tuscan kale or Lacinato kale). This dish can be served in many ways. It could easily be a lunch in itself, or a nice antipasto. Low in fat and high in protein, beans are the choice ingredient. If you season and cook them properly, they're delicious, too.
Soup is essential to a home cook's repertoire because of its versatility. Soups work in every season. The broccoli used in this recipe could easily be replaced with kale or spinach, as the market permits. And it's easy to incorporate items that otherwise collect dust in your cupboard or mold in your refrigerator. Basic ingredients like dry or canned beans and Parmigiano-Reggiano are items my kitchen is never without.
Last week, we made a version of this soup with leftover roasted root vegetables and beets. It was a lesson in simplicity.
Broccoli and White Bean Soup
Makes 8-10 servings as a first course
1 pound fresh broccoli
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Spanish onions, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
5 fresh garlic cloves: 2 thinly sliced, 3 halved
One 3-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and well-drained
10 hand-cut slices of whole-grain bread
toasted 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Remove and discard the tough end from the broccoli stems, and coarsely chop the broccoli. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the sliced garlic, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the broccoli and 1 tablespoon of sea salt, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 6 cups hot water and the cheese rind. Raise the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the cheese rind, cut it into 1/4-inch cubes, and set them aside. Transfer the soup, in small batches, to a blender or food processor, cover tightly, and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the Dutch oven and add the cheese rind pieces. Season to taste with salt, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
3. Rub both sides of the toasted bread with the cut sides of the halved garlic cloves. Tear the toasts into bite-sized pieces, and divide them evenly among warmed soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the toast pieces in each bowl. Top each serving with grated Parmigiano, and serve.
- From Mario Batali
Per serving: 509 calories, 31 grams protein, 81 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 10 grams fat, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 353 milligrams sodium, 30 grams dietary fiber.
Mario Batali is the owner of Babbo, Lupa, Otto, and other renowned restaurants.