Giuliano called me from our local farmer’s market ecstatic.  “They have beautiful kale, I want to make a soup!“  He was calling me because he wanted to make the Tuscan soup that traditionally calls for cavolo nero, a dark leafy vegetable typical of Tuscany whose closest equivalent in the States is kale.  He said he remembered writing a recipe for it, but couldn’t recall which book it was in or what the other ingredients were.  I quickly looked through How to Cook Italian to no avail, then I checked Every Night Italian.  There I found a recipe for his Classic Tuscan Vegetable Soup, La Ribollita, and he said to read him the ingredients.  It had Savoy and red cabbages, Swiss chard, zucchini, and leeks.

Giuliano arrived home with bags of greens and got the recipe out to make the soup.  As he read the recipe he realized it didn’t call for kale at all.  The combination of greens called for was supposed to “approximate as close as possible” the flavor of Tuscan cavolo neroEvery Night Italian was written over 10 years ago and it must have been after that the he had started using kale as a substitute.  Faced with the beautiful bunch of fresh-from-the-farm kale he decided to use it instead of the Swiss chard.  The result was a wonderful ribollita, that is a perfect antidote to the cold weather most of the country has been experiencing.

Now when your local Community Supported Agriculture  (CSA) farm delivers a mountain of kale, you’ll know what to do with it.  Both of our girls enjoyed this soup.  In fact, our oldest, 11 year old Gabriella, brought it to school in her thermos for lunch and said that all of her friends were jealous. It is very easy to make and freezes well if you’ve made more than you need.

Tuscan Ribollita

©  Giuliano Hazan

Preparation:  30 minutes

Total time from start to finish:  2 hours and 30 minutes

serves 8 to 10 people

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 medium size leek

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces Savoy cabbage

8 ounces red cabbage

8 ounces kale leaves

1/3 cup celery, cut into 1/4″ dice

1/3 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice

6 ounces (3/4 cup) zucchini, cut into 1/2″ dice

1 cup canned cranberry or cannellini beans, drained

1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, coarsely chopped

8 ounces white boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice


Freshly ground black pepper

A slice of good crusty bread for each serving (optional)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1.  Put the chopped onion and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 6 to 8-quart heavy bottomed soup pot and place over medium high heat.  Sauté until the onion turns to a light golden color, about 5 minutes.

2.  While the onion is sautéing, trim the leek by cutting away the root end and removing the tough green tops of the leaves.  Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then across into 1/2″ pieces.  Soak the pieces of leek in cold water to loosen any dirt.  When the onion is ready, add the leek and turn the heat down to medium low.

3.  Add each of the following vegetables as you prepare them, periodically stirring the contents of the pot.

Savoy cabbage: cut off the root end and shred it finely.

Kale: remove the stalks.  Wash the leaves in cold water and chop them very coarsely.

Red cabbage: cut off the root and finely shred.

Celery: peel the back of the stalk to remove the tough strings, rinse under cold water and dice.

Carrot: peel and dice.

Zucchini: scrub under cold water and dice.

Canned beans: simply drain them of their juice.

Canned tomatoes: chop coarsely or simply break them up with your hand.

Potatoes: peel and cut into 1/2″ dice.  Wash them by placing them in a bowl of cold water as you cut them.

4.  When you have finished adding all the vegetables season generously with salt and pepper.  Pour in the 5 cups of water, cover the pot, raise the heat and, when the soup comes to a boil turn the heat down so that it cooks at a gentle simmer.  Cook for at least 2 hours checking it about every 30 minutes to stir.  The soup is done when the vegetables are very tender, almost creamy.

5.  When you are ready to serve the soup, toast or grill the slices of bread and place them on the bottom of each soup bowl.  Pour the soup over the bread and let it stand for about 5 minutes.  Just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over each serving and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.