Saturday, March 1, 2008


I think almost every food culture has a dish that is meant to utilize what is left in your pantry--a dish that gives "spring cleaning" a whole other meaning. These dishes use scraps, extra vegetables, stocks, wines, seasonings and usually encompasses a broad spectrum of flavors belonging to that culture. I think, for Florentines, this dish is called "Ribollita" which means "recooked". The dish is a thick stew that uses Italian Seasonings, Wine, Parmesan Rind, Veggies, Pancetta and more making a perfect Late Winter/Early Spring comfort food.

The 2 things that intrigued me as a new cook was the use of Bread & the use of Kale. It makes a lot of sense--you know you're going to eat a stew or soup with bread--why not just cut out the middle man? Turns out this is a great way to make use of stale bread laying around or bread in your freezer works too. Kale, a very nutritious leafy green, is an ingredient I had never used to cook, much less did I eat. Reading about it's health benefits as part of the World's Healthiest Foods (please visit for more information) I wanted to incorporate it into my diet. Ribollita satisfied this curiosity!

Now, as I've gotten a litte more comfortable with cooking in general, I search a wide variety of recipes and try to discern what the most important ingredients are that make a dish and try and create my own. I searched and searched lots of recipes for Ribollita--some were too complicated, some didn't appeal to me--but, inevitably, I found myself drawn to a Rachael Ray recipe--it is simple, straigtforward & makes use of Kale--and had great ideas for garnishes--one of my favorite things. I altered the recipe to my preferences, adding different seasonings (and some heat with the crushed red peppers), and substituting White Wine and Chicken Broth instead of Beef Broth & Red Wine etc., for the original "Ribollita con Verdure" please see


*This is a One-Pot Dish also, these measurements are for a my Pot that is more on the smaller side, so if you are unsure how much room you're working with, just be a little conservative the first time around and adjust at the end and for the next time you make this recipe!

1/4 lb Pancetta (ask your butcher to cut it very thick--it's about 2, 1/3 inch thick slices I believe)
2 Medium Carrots, chopped thinly
1 Medium Zucchini
A Large Onion (3/4 in the Stew, 1/4 reserved for garnishing)
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (with or without herbs--I like herbs)
1 Can Cannellini Beans, drained
1 to 3 cups Chicken Stock (depending on how much room you're working with)
4 to 6 large Garlic Cloves
Fresh Rosemary (about 5 small sprigs)
Palmful of Dried Italian Seasoning
Palmful of Crushed Red Pepper (optional if you don't like heat)
Parmesan Rind (yes, the Rind)
Dry Pinot Grigio
Kale, about 2 to 4 big leaves worth (there's about 3 of that in an average bunch at the grocery store)
3 to 6 slices of Stale Bread or Toasted Frozen Bread (depending on the size of your Pot)

Minced Onion
Fresh Italian Parsley
Extra EVOO for pouring on top
Fresh Grated Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (but I believe Pecorino is more if you like details?)

1. VEGGIE PREP: Chop Carrots thinly. Chop Zucchini into small pieces (small so you want it to meld in with the other ingredients and not "stick out" that much). Chop 3/4 of the Onion. Roughly chop Garlic Cloves. Drain Cannellini Beans. Set aside, far from Pancetta.

2. PANCETTA PREP: If the Pancetta is cut thick--cut the rest into small cubes--the idea here is that you get a little square piece of pancetta with every bite of the Ribollita for a salty surprise. Set away from veggies!

3. In your Pot, add 1 turn of EVOO over Medium Heat. Add cubes of Pancetta. Cook the Pancetta for about 4 of 5 minutes, until lots of fat has rendered and the meat is turning crispy.

4. Add Carrots, 3/4 of the chopped Onion, Zucchini & Garlic to Pancetta alrady cooking. Coat the veggies with the fat and pancetta. Let cook for a minute and begin to "sweat"--as in release the veggie's moisture. Season with Salt, Pepper, add Palmful of Dried Italian Seasoning, Crushed Red Pepper & Fresh Rosemary.***My trick with Rosemary is to use Kitchen Shears and cut the leaves over the cooking pot--be careful not to include any stems! Continue to cook for another 7 mintes or so after you've added all the seasonings. You can also add more EVOO if the veggies are sticking--and make sure not to burn, keep on Medium to Medium-Low depending on your stove.

5. Add Can of Diced Tomatoes, cook for another minute to incorporate.

6. Add the wine! Half a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Mmmm.

7. Add Parmesan Rind!

8. Turn up heat, use your wooden spoon to scrape anything sticking to the bottom of the pan and the sides. Boil like this for about 4 to 5 minutes.

9. Add 1 cup of Chicken Stock.

10. Turn Heat down to Medium-Low, make sure to keep the boiling going. Add the Cannellini Beans & start to add the pieces of Bread (toast it first if frozen!). I used Frozen Rosemary Bread from Whole Foods. Add at least 3 pieces to start. Let it continue to boil while you begin to chop the Kale leaves into tiny pieces or strips.

8. Begin to add sliced Kale leaves to the dish, the idea here is that the Kale hardly needs to be "cooked"--so the leaves will just wilt in the low boiling stew and be fresher and therefore retain more nutrients too!

9. At this point assess the Ribollita. You'll probably add at least 1 more cup of Chicken Stock. Adjust for Seasonings--but remember the more this dish sits, the more flavors will become bolder. And you'll probably add 1 to 3 more pieces of bread, depending on your pot. The idea is that your wooden spoon should be able to stand straight in the center--this is thick. I made mine a little thinner.

10. Once I've added everything and adjusted seasonings I usually let it boil all together on low heat for about 5 more minutes, for good measure, to let everything flow together and the bread to soak in the juices.

11. THIS IS HOT! So be careful before eating, let sit for a little bit while you prepare the table and garnishings.

*Service the Ribollita in shallow servings with Minced Onion, Fresh Parsley & EVOO--DELICIOUS.

*Definately the kind of dish you can keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days--serves about 6.

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