Sunday, June 01, 2008


There’s an old Italian proverb about soup.

Sette cose fa la zuppa, cava fame e sete attuta, empie il ventre, snetta il dente, fa dormire, fa smaltire, e la guancia fa arrossire.

Which, for those of us who don’t speak Italian, translates as;

Soup does seven things; it takes away hunger and thirst, fills the stomach, cleans the teeth, makes you sleep, makes you slim and puts colour in your cheeks.

I always cook soup when it’s cold and I’m feeling a little peaky. I find making soup restores the soul, so maybe there’s an eighth thing in there too. Whatever case, soup is the thing I turn too when I need a bit of cheering up. Well, that and shoe shopping.

So today I set about making some ribollita, while listening to Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress. Truly great stuff for the soul. Especially as I’d got the last bunch of Tuscan cabbage at the Norton Street Grocer.

There’s just no point making ribollita without Tuscan cabbage, also known as Cavolo Nero. Its dark green leaves are packed full of iron and it’s also great sauted with some chilli and anchovy. But today it was the soup pot for these leaves. My version isn’t exactly authentic, as I couldn’t resist adding some pancetta, but feel free to leave it out.

A good size bunch of Tuscan cabbage. It should be squeaky fresh.
Two white onions, diced
Four sticks of celery, sliced and diced (I sound like Hannibal Lecter)
Three fat cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
A tin of cannelinni beans (I like La Gina brand), rinsed
A couple of slices of pancetta dolce, cut into batons
A tin of chopped tomatoes (I like Annalisa brand)
At least 200ml of good chicken stock
A good chunk of slightly stale ciabatta
Your best olive oil

Begin by rendering the fat from the pancetta in some light olive oil. The idea is for the fat to melt, rather than for the meat to crisp, so keep the heat down low. Once the pancetta is soft and plump, add the onions and soften. Then add the garlic and the celery. The idea is to build up layers of flavour, so it’s important to give each ingredient time to coat in the porky oil and give up their goodness. I took a shower and blow-dryed my hair once everything was in the pot, to allow the flavours extra time to mix. Once you’re happy with your blow-dry (or the base for the soup, depends on which comes first) add the stock, tomatoes, ¾ of the beans and bring to a good simmer. Add the cabbage and cook for around 30 minutes.

While this is happening, you want to puree the rest of the beans (you can use a blender or just mush them up), as they, along with the bread, will thicken the soup. Add the puree and the stale bread, which you’ve ripped into chunks and return to the heat. Check the seasoning and the consistency, ribollita is meant to be thick. If you've used pancetta, you probably won't need too much salt.

Serve with a glug of your best olive oil on top. World becomes better place.

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Blogger Fabio Pereira said...

Hey my dear Suzi,

You're blogging again!!! yes!!!

5:26 PM  

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