La Ribollita is a hearty, nourishing soup originating from Tuscany made with beans and kale. You’ll love how easy it is to make and how perfect this soup is for leftovers – it tastes better and better each day!
One of my all time favorite Italian soups is, of course, minestrone. But, when I need to switch things up a bit, ribollita is a perfect alternative.
The name "ribollita" translates to “reboiled”, which is fitting since this soup tastes even better the next day (and the next)! It’s known as a peasant soup, since traditionally it was made using leftover beans and vegetables from the week, creating a delicious and hearty meal. Soups like this and my 5-ingredient bean soup are perfect for weeks when your grocery budget is stretched thin!
La ribollita is mainly characterized as being a thick potage with a base of beans, greens and bread. The rest is up to interpretation by the cook, and more often than not, is determined by whatever happens to be lying around that day. For me, that was a slab of pancetta and a bag of dried cranberry beans, or fagioli borlotti as they're called in Italy.
Like all rustic Italian dishes, each cook will have their own variation. Traditionally, ribollita recipes use stale bread to add thickness to this soup, but my version leaves the bread on the side, as the beans do a great job creating a thick and creamy soup base. Instead, I prefer lightly toasting my bread, rubbing it with garlic and olive oil (like bruschetta) and then ladling the soup over top (like French onion soup) so it retains some of its crispness.
Why This Recipe Works
- Perfect for meal prepping – it tastes even better the next day!
- Budget-friendly way to use up leftover meats, beans, and vegetables.
- Can be made with canned beans for an easy 30-minute meal.
- Nourishing with plenty of protein, fiber, and greens!
- Chicken stock - Homemade stock adds the best flavor for this recipe. You can always use boxed, or substitute vegetable stock if you want to make this vegetarian (just leave out the pancetta as well).
- Cranberry (borlotti) beans - These beans are similar to pinto beans, but have thicker skins and are incredibly flavorful and creamy. You can use fresh cranberry beans or dried (just be sure to soak them overnight). If you can’t find cranberry beans, feel free to use a white bean like cannelli, great northern, or navy beans. If using canned beans, see the note below.
- Kale - Using a hearty green like kale is perfect for this soup. I use Black Tuscan kale, known as Cavolo Nero in Italian or Lacinato kale, but feel free to use curly kale, cabbage, chard or even collard greens if that’s what you can find or prefer.
- Canned Tomatoes - I prefer whole peeled tomatoes, as they’re the least processed canned tomatoes and often have the best flavor, but any type of canned tomato can work - crushed, diced, etc. You could even use Marinara sauce in a pinch.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil sautéing the vegetables, brushing the garlic toast and for drizzling on top before serving.
NOTE: If using canned beans, make sure to drain and rinse them, then reduce the amount of chicken stock you use by half.
Step by Step Instructions
- Pour the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot and set it over medium heat.
- Add the pancetta and saute it until the fat starts to render out, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the onions, celery and carrots, season with a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic and crushed red chili flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, then use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes a bit.
- Drain the beans and add to the pot along with the bay leaf and rosemary sprig.
- Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans have softened, about 2 hours, supplementing with water if it starts to become too thick.
- Add the kale, stir, then simmer for about 10 minutes more, or until the kale has fully softened.
- Taste, then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then stir in the parsley.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Drizzle the sliced bread with olive oil, then arrange it in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the bread form the oven and immediately rub the remaining raw clove of garlic on all sides while the bread is still warm.
- Place a piece of toasted bread in each bowl, then ladle the ribollita on top.
- Drizzle with olive oil and top with grated parmesan or pecorino Romano.
- Serve extra garlic toasts on the side.
Tips for Success
- If using dried beans, make sure to let them soak overnight. If you don't have time, you can use the "quick soak" method by pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit for one hour before padding them to the recipe.
- You can use any beans you’d like for this recipe, but white beans are traditional to Italian-style soups, so cannelli, navy, great northern, or cranberry beans are ideal.
- If substituting canned beans for dry, substitute with four 15-ounce cans of beans. Be sure to drain and rinse the canned beans and reduce the chicken stock by half (one quart).
- RIbollita is even better the next day, but the beans will continue to absorb liquid as it sits. Add water when reheating and adjust the seasoning to keep it at a soupy consistency.
How to Store and Reheat La Ribollita
This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for 3 months in an airtight container.
To reheat, just place the soup back into a small pot and warm over the stove. Add more stock or water if the mixture seems too thick (the beans will continue to absorb liquid as it’s stored).
To reheat from frozen, let the soup thaw overnight in the refrigerator then warm in a pot on the stove.
FAQS About La Ribollita
While my recipe uses pancetta and chicken stock, you can easily leave the meat out and use vegetable stock for a delicious and hearty vegetarian ribollita.
The two soups are very similar and can each be made with several variations depending on the cook’s preference. Minestrone often includes tomatoes, various beans, several different types of vegetables, and sometimes even pasta or rice. Ribollita’s base is beans, a hearty green like kale or cabbage, and bread.
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