When it comes to the traditional cuisine of poor Florentine people, comes immediately to mind the Ribollita. Thi peasant dish has very ancient historical roots, far back to the Middle Ages. In fact, the feudal lords, those who owned the castles, during their lavish banquets mostly meat-based, were served roasted animals directly on dishes of unleavened bread (without yeast and salt) and ate without cutlery nor plates.
The buns were then given to the servants to eat. These they boiled in pots of water with what they could find in the surrounding countryside, mostly vegetables and herbs such as carrots, celery cabbage “thyme” etc … The amount produced was likely to last for several days, was in fact made to boil again in the following days to get more flavors (as is typical of the vegetables) each time they reboiled.
Over the years this preparation was “refined” becoming a famous recipe. In the Florentine countryside peasants cook the ribollita especially on Friday, the day when Catholics should you eat lean. In Lent eating lean was the law, the list of foods allowed was very small: were to avoid meat, lard, lard, and in many areas also dairy and red eggs. The only food remaining available was, therefore, bread, vegetables, herbs polenta, legumes and pasta. It was also admitted fish, hence the tradition of serving fish on Good Friday. It is told that in poorer farmhouses a dried herring was held suspended on the table and the diners rubbed to it in turn by with their bread.
The Ribollita was served for many days (boiled over again…hence the name…Ri-bollita …boil again).
The most essential ingredient is the black cabbage (Tuscan kale). It is found only in Tuscan cultivations and needs to have passed one or more winter frosts that soften the leaves. In dialect we say: “abbia preso i’ghiaccio”. Even the beans play an important role both in the Florentine tradition and in the preparation of ribollita.
…”Fiorentin mangia fagioli
lecca piatti e romaioli
e per farla più pulita
poi si lecca anche le dita…. ”
(… “Fiorentin eats beans
licking dishes and big spoons
and to make it cleaner
then licks her fingers …. “)
It must be cannellini beans. The bread used is strictly “sciocco” that is, without salt, stale, and baked in a wood not so much for the taste, but for the consistency. Last, it needs “pepolino” as we call thyme in dialect. Florentine cuisine is very rich in herbs.
The ribollita is a typical soup made in Tuscany.
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE
300 g of dried white beans
½ black cabbage (kale)
200 g spinach
250 g of ripe tomatoes
400 g of homemade bread stale
a bone of ham or pork rind cut ribbed
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
4 sage leaves
a handful of parsley
1 stick of celery
½ large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 liters of broth
150 g of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1- Put the beans , previously soaked in cold water overnight and then drained , in a large earthenware pot with cold water , add the pork rind ( or the ham bone ) and sage . Put on the stove and cook on very low heat. When the beans are cooked, mash half of them through the masher with a little of their cooking water, let the other whole.
2-Finely chop the onion , garlic , celery , carrot and parsley and brown it in a crock with oil .
3-When the garlic has browned , add kale , cabbage , tomatoes , potatoes and spinach , coarsely chopped .
4- Add salt and pepper , add the tomato paste and broth .
5- When the vegetables are almost cooked (it will take approximately half an hour ), add the mashed beans . Simmer a few more minutes , then add the whole beans kept aside and two sprigs of thyme . Cook for a couple of minutes .
6-Distribute the soup in dishes where you have placed the slices of stale bread and sprinkle with grated pecorino cheese .
Ribollita is more tasty the next day after boiling it again!