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Ribolitta Tuscan Vegetable Stew

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of Ribolitta Tuscan Vegetable Stew
After selling our farm in November, we took a chance and decided to enjoy the December holidays in Italy. We literally had no reservations and even purchased one-way plane tickets. Luckily, it worked out very well and exceeded all of our expectations.

Yes, December is smack dab in the middle of low season, so some restaurants and shops were closed. But we found fabulous deals on short-term rentals, including seaside rooms that we probably couldn’t afford (or even find) in high season. We don’t like crowds, so it was really nice to enjoy viewing cathedrals, art and so many incredible sights without long lines or waits. To top it off, we lucked out on the weather too. We had a few misty days, but even though we spent time as far north as Lake Como, it was never too cold. It was perfect.

The previous summer we spent a month in Puglia and Sicily. (My husband is applying for dual citizenship in Italy, as he has Sicilian heritage.) Arriving in Tuscany on December 9 allowed us to enjoy weeks of decorations, holiday lights and music leading up to the holidays. It was unforgettable. We heard little but Italian spoken. It often felt like we were the only tourists in town.

Two weeks in Tuscany allowed us to stay in Florence, Sienna, Montepulciano, Montechiello and Lucca. Most of the wines in Tuscany are made predominantly of Sangiovese grapes – quite easy to like! There wasn’t as much seafood as we enjoyed on the Sicilian coast last year, but charcuterie (such as salami, ham, mortadella) and cheeses are simply amazing. Cacciucco (seafood stew), Panzanella (bread salad with tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil), Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Tuscan Porterhouse) and Chicken Cacciatore were a few of our favorites. But one dish we saw on nearly every menu in Tuscany was Ribolitta.

Considered a classic peasant dish because it can be made from inexpensive leftovers, this hearty soup/stew combines beans, greens (such as kale), broth and bread. Delicious and filling, it was the perfect go to for wintry weather lunches or dinners.

This recipe is easy to prepare and does well with substitutions. If you have fennel on hand, swap that out for the celery. Mushrooms or chopped fresh tomatoes would also make a nice addition. For a heartier version, you can add shredded chicken or cooked crumbled Italian sausage. And, of course, you can substitute rice or another cooked grain for the pasta.

Ribilitta (Tuscan Vegetable Stew)
Image of Ingredients
Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery (or fennel)
1 tablespoon Melissa’s chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped Melissa’s Sun-Dried Tomatoes
2 teaspoons Melissa’s Tuscan Seasoning blend
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups chopped raw spinach or kale
1 (8.8 ounce) pkg Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley (1 1/3 cups)
1 cup cooked orzo (or other small pasta shape)

Garnish:
Chopped Italian parsley or fresh basil
Grated Pecorino cheese
Chili flakes (optional)

Preparation
Image of Vegetable saute
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or four-quart pan over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until softened but not brown. Add garlic and stir for a minute longer. Do not brown.
Image of vegetable sauté with sun dried tomatoes and Tuscan seasoning
Add the Melissa’s Tuscan Seasoning and Melissa’s Sun-Dried Tomatoes and stir well.
Image of soup
Add broth to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
Image of soup with greens
Add greens and simmer for 3 minutes.
Image of soup with beans
Stir in steamed beans and cooked pasta. Simmer for approximately 3 minutes or until heated through. Garnish and serve hot.
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