My good friend Kasia came all the way from sunny Oakland, California, to visit me in Chicago this weekend. I am trying to (not-so-)gently nudge her to consider moving here, and she wanted to see what this “weather” stuff was all about before she made up her mind. We had snow, cold, and gray skies. Her verdict: she was pretty damn cold. I dubbed her Wussy Galore.
Thus, we spent a lot of time indoors, and I had time to simmer out a chicken stock from leftover bones (recipe for the chicken I made last week with Johanna coming soon). With the combination of chilly weather and a gallon of homemade chicken stock, soup was definitely in order.
Ribolita was Kasia’s idea, as it’s one of her favorite go-tos. And it was phenomenal. There are many beautiful things about this soup, but two in particular: 1: one can of the cannellini beans goes into the pot in puree form, which blends into silky tomato goodness; 2: you tear up chunks of crusty bread into the bottom of the bowl, which then absorb the liquid and become fluffy soup pillows. Did I also mention that a big hunk of parmesan rind infuses the whole concoction with a rich cheese flavor? There’s a lot going on in this pot. And your belly is going to thank you for making it.
Not only was it the perfect thing to eat on a winter night, I got to eat it with an old friend who was willing to travel 2000 miles to the Arctic tundra in order to eat, drink, knit, and enjoy my favorite movie with me (Cabaret). I know that people get stuck indoors a lot in such climates as this, but there are worse things, right? It’s a season perfectly made for friends and food! When, in fact, you can pass time in such a lovely manner, who needs sunshine–or even California for that matter (hint, hint, Kasia)? (Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this.)
from SF Gate
4 oz. pancetta, diced
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the soup
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can chopped or diced whole tomatoes, with juice
3 cans cannellini beans (1 can pureed with liquid, 2 cans drained and rinsed)
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
2 oz. Parmesan rind
4 c. chicken broth
3 c. packed chopped savoy cabbage
3 c. packed chopped chard leaves
1/2 pound stale Italian bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 2-inch chunks
Parmesan cheese, for grating
In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, cook pancetta over medium heat until slightly crisped and the fat has rendered, about 4 minutes. Add the olive oil, then add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
Add garlic, and season vegetables with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add tomato paste and stir well to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes more.
Add chopped tomatoes and their juices, cannellini puree and whole beans, dried oregano, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and parmesan rind. Stir well until everything is combined. Cover with 4 cups chicken broth and add one cup of water to the pot.
Bring to a boil, stir in the cabbage and chard leaves, and simmer soup for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When ready to serve, divide stale bread between bowls. Use as much as desired, keeping in mind that the longer the soup sits, the more the bread will soak up the broth. You want to see a little bit of liquid in the bowl but you should have plenty of bread. Pour the soup over the bread, stir to combine and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top. Finish with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.