During the winter months I love to make soup. There’s something calming about the process- chopping the vegetables becomes a form of meditation for me. My favorite soups sit on the stove top or in the slow cooker for hours, taking time to develop a rich flavor and heating the kitchen in the process. It’s always a labor of love, but I’ve never felt that it wasn’t worth my time or effort. A few weeks ago, we had this version of Ribollita, an Italian bread soup, that I developed for the Organic Grocery Deals newsletter. It’s become one of our cold-weather favorites. With the “mega-storm” blanketing the eastern seaboard today, I figured it was the perfect time to share the recipe.
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 large carrots, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped 1/4″ wide
2 ribs celery, sliced into 1/4″ widths
1 small/medium bunch green chard, chopped (about 2.5 cups)
14-15 ounces canned tomatoes- diced or whole- plus juice
14-15 ounces canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or soaked and cooked dried beans)
1.5 quarts stock, either chicken or vegetable
4 cups stale crusty bread, cut or torn into large (about 1-1&1/2 inches) pieces
olive oil- about 3 tablespoons
sea salt and ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
optional garnish: fresh basil, Parmesan cheese
In a soup pot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the onions begin to get translucent, add carrots and celery, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring often. After about 5 minutes, add the stock and the tomatoes. If you’re using whole tomatoes, chop them into large chunks before adding them into the pot. Add beans and dried basil into the pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer, covered, on low heat for 15 minutes. Add the chard. Re-cover pot and allow to simmer on low another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare croutons.
To prepare croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread out onto a pan. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons olive oil on it, and using your hands, massage it into the stale bread. Sprinkle a pinch each salt and ground pepper over of the bread. Bake for 10 minutes.
To serve: Top each soup bowl with a handful of croutons. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil, if available. This recipe serves 4 people as a main course or 6 as a side.