My take on ribollita

Ribollita recipe for the Home Cook
Garnished with extra virgin olive oil and a little grated cheese, the perfect bowl to hug your insides.

I love all kinds of soup. There is just something so comforting about a big steaming bowl in front of you. Especially when that something is ribollita.

In case you aren't familiar with it, ribollita is a famous Tuscan soup, with main ingredients being beans, bread and vegetables. Technically, ribollita is supposed to be made from yesterday's leftover soup, probably minestrone, but vegetable soups or others could be used and then reheated until it got really thick. Ribollita literally means "reboiled." But all over this soup is being made as a hearty beans and greens (usually some sort of cabbage, cavolo nero is one you'll see a lot of) potage.

I haven't eaten ribollita in a while, but I woke up to a cold morning (35 degrees is practically arctic here in Orlando) and since I had all day to cook, I decided to make ribollita. But how to start?

I had some really good ribollita at Bottega Ristorante, Michael Chiarello's place in Napa, so I looked up the recipe. He starts with a prosciutto bone? What? So I went to a very trusty Italian cookbook, Jamie's Italy, by Jamie Oliver of course, and his recipe has absolutely no meat in it, but the general process is the same. Soak your beans (in the case of using dried) sweat a bunch of vegetables, add broth or water or canned tomatoes, then after that has all cooked together, throw in your greens and bread, reboil the sucker, and serve it up.

I figured, I might as well use both recipes as inspiration and make my own.

I hit the grocery store because there were 2 things I needed that I knew I didn't have, a ham hock (I figured it would be the best substitute for the prosciutto bone) and greens. I decided on kale. So I went home and decided to make it up as I went.

What follows is my take on ribollita, I make no claims to authenticity or adherence to tradition.

I started by getting olive oil into my trusty dutch oven. I diced one small yellow onion, a shallot (I had it sitting there and the onion was small so I figured, why not?) two carrots, two ribs of celery, and half a poblano pepper (leftover from a previous meal), and tossed it all into the pot to get sweating. 
Looks like the beginning of soup.

So far so good. I always cook with wine, so I grabbed a ziplock bag of red out of my freezer (I make a habit of freezing any leftover wine in ziplock baggies) and added it to the veggies once they had sweat it out a little bit. I figured I would be adding tomatoes and ham hocks, so red would be a good choice. I cooked the wine down just a bit then dumped in a frozen block (I hadn't thought far enough ahead to have it defrosted)  of chicken stock (I always have homemade chicken stock in the freezer too, but you could easily use the canned stuff, it was about 3 cups), added a cup of water and popped the lid on to get that working together.

In about 5 minutes my frozen stock had melted into the water and veggies so it was time to add the ham hock. Just my luck, Publix had smoked and plain hocks, so I popped one small of each into the pot, wrapped up thyme, rosemary and bay in cheescloth and popped that in, as well as three cloves of garlic I minced.
The smoked hock is on top, fresh is bottom left, and that white lump on the right is my bouquet garni.

Now it was time to get serious. I put the lid on and brought that to a boil for 30 minutes. At this point, I would've added a can of tomatoes, but I remembered I had leftover pizza sauce in the fridge (that was just canned tomatoes, basil, garlc and oil) so I put that in instead. It was probably around 2 cups worth. 
Tomatoes are added, ready to "set it and forget it"
I brought that mixture up to a boil, then turned the heat to low, added an old parmesan rind (you guessed it, from a ziplock in my freezer), slapped the lid on, and left it alone for 2 hours.

When I came back to it - here is what I found...

I took it off the heat and got to work. The hocks were completely falling apart and tender, so I pulled them and my bouquet garni out. I chucked the bones, fat, and dessimated herbs away, and put the super succulent meat back in the pot with another cup of water.

I put the lid back on and since it was still several hours until dinner. I let it get to room temp, then put the whole thing in the fridge, to be "reboiled" quickly when it was closer to dinner time.

A couple of hours later, I've put the pot back on the heat, medium low, I want to bring this baby back gently, and threw in my leftover bread pieces. Once they had soaked up some of the liquid, it was time to turn this pot to high, add the beans (canned) and the kale, and let it "reboil."
Bread and beans added.
Kale added and mixed in.

After boiling s few minutes, it's done.

And to drink? You know I wouldn't forget the wine. This is soup from Tuscany, so what better to pair with it than Tuscany's most famous wine, Chianti.

I tend to stick with Chianti Classico and always look for the DOC or DOCG label.

Unlike most Chianti Classico's, the 2007 Vescine Riserva Lodolaio was actually much better by itself than with food. With a nose of cherry licorice, tar and white pepper, there was noticeable wood tannin and a smooth finish. Decent, but definitely not my favorite.

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