February 10th, 2008 · 21 Comments


beans! beans! they’re good for your heart! the more you eat, the more you fart… unless you change the soaking water every couple of hours to remove the offending sugar molecules called oligosaccharides. see what you get from me? both immaturity and education! i am like so totally worth your time…

after the butter and cream, the foie gras and all the excesses of december, and then with the inevitable regrouping that comes each january, here we are in february and i’m ready for some simple cool weather comfort food. and the fact that beans are low fat and don’t cost a fortune – well you’ve gotta love the beans if only for that. so after months of hearing endless raves about rancho gordo’s heirloom beans, i could stand it no longer and i went to their tres cool site and placed an order. and voila, as promised a box arrived at my door with an assortment of no less than 10 bags of some mighty fine looking legumes. now i guess i’ve got my work cut out for me…

i opted to begin with the borlotti beans. they’re similar to cranberry beans but the coloration is different and they’re slightly bigger. borlotti’s are commonly used in italian cooking and i’ve been wanting to make ribollita for awhile now, so this seemed like perfect timing. and well, that timing – it’s everything… so i started reading up and it seems that every cook’s ribollita recipe varies, but all share the common theme of taking dried beans, stale bread and winter vegetables – and wowing the hell out of you. ribollita translates from the italian to ‘re-boiled’. as with most stews and soups, this dish benefits by sitting for a day and then reheated the next.

(heavily adapted from the ny times column ‘eating well’ written by marion burros in 1992)

3 cups dry borlotti beans, soaked 8 hours
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
8 cloves garlic, peeled, 4 left whole, 4 minced
6 ounces pancetta – medium dice
2 large onions – coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup canned Italian tomatoes
4 carrots – chopped
4 celery ribs – chopped
1 fennel bulb – sliced
1/2 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme – chopped
2 pound cavalo nero (lacinato kale) washed, trimmed and cut into thin strips
1 pound potatoes, coarsely diced
thin slices of stale tuscan bread – i used a loaf of pugliese

1. drain beans after soaking and cover generously with fresh water, adding the sage and the 4 whole cloves of garlic. bring beans to boil and cook 45 minutes to one hour, until they are quite tender. reserve liquid.

2. meanwhile, saute the pancetta, the 4 minced garlic cloves and the onions in the olive oil.

3. when beans are cooked, puree half of them in a food processor, using a little of the cooking liquid

4. combine the pureed and the whole beans with the pancetta mixture and with tomatoes, carrots, celery, thyme, kale, potatoes and 3 cups of the bean broth. cook for 30 to 60 minutes, adding water if soup becomes more like porridge. season well with salt and pepper.

5. place a layer of bread in a casserole and top with some soup. repeat until all the bread is used, ending with soup on top. the dish can be served this way, as a bean and bread soup. to make this a true ribollita, refrigerate overnight. the next day, mash the soup and the bread into a thick porridge. boil to reheat. as an alternative, you may saute the ribollita in a non-stick skillet in some olive oil until it forms a light crust. in either case, each serving should then be topped with your very best olive oil. i added slivers of parmigiano.


and yes, i grabbed my skillet and opted for the lightly crusted version. i mean, how could you not? my ribollita was then served right alongside a simple salad of romaine with dried cherries and a walnut oil and black fig vinaigrette.

it’s as close to tuscany as i’ve been in too long.

Tags: beans · soup

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 minimally invasive // Feb 10, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Looks great, especially crusted and topped with cheese. Are the Rancho Gordo beans worth the extra trouble?

  • 2 Lauren // Feb 10, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Yes, fellow commenters, prepare to hate me. I was fortunate enough to get to eat this dish, and let me just say MMMMM! The flavor was amazing, and the fact that it’s fairly healthy is good because you are going to want to eat the whole pot yourself. I’m definitely going to have to try this one myself. Pray for me.

  • 3 Jennifer Hess // Feb 10, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Okay, you TOTALLY WIN. That looks absolutely amazing.

    Amy – I’m going to add my two cents re: the RG beans and say absolutely yes. I have had some cooking low and slow all day with a hunk of leftover pork confit and some onion, and the texture of the beans themselves is amazing.

  • 4 claudia // Feb 10, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    min – in a word… yes.

    lauren – that’s my girly. i love you honey and you’re a pleasure to feed. now make me proud and get cooking.

    jennifer – yes, it’s all about the texture. they are just perfect.

  • 5 cookiecrumb // Feb 10, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Wow, a crusted ribollito. That’s new to me, and ohmygoodness.

  • 6 Diana // Feb 10, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Didn’t know you could do that to a soup. Lovely! Puts my bagged 15-bean soup of last week to shame. I can’t wait to see what becomes of the other 9 bags.

  • 7 Donald // Feb 11, 2008 at 4:12 am

    I told you! I too drank the kool-aid and found those beans to be delicious. Of course, I didn’t make anything as good looking as this dish though. Thanks for the recipe, as this looks really, really, good.

    Look forward to your next episode with the RG beans.

  • 8 democommie // Feb 11, 2008 at 7:39 am


    The dish reminds me, a bit, of cassoulet which then reminds me that a chef friend of mine once told me that until one of the Medici family (Catherine?) came to the French Court with her own cooks that “french cooking” was nothing to write home about it. Do you know anything about that story?

    I have tried every suggested way to prepare beans to lessen or eliminate oligiosaccharides and it’s always been hit or miss. The same seems to be true with canned beans (so burn me for a heretic!) .

    That dish looks way too yummy to not try, soon. I’ll probably opt for back bacon ( I am, after all, a stone’s throw form Ontario, Canada, eh?). Did you suggest a vessel size? That looks like at least an 8 qt stock pot’s worth of stuff.

  • 9 Justin // Feb 11, 2008 at 7:42 am

    All I kept thinking after that picture was “Roll that beautiful bean footage!”, though this just might trump a can of Bush’s. I just read a great article on Rancho Gordo and proceeded to curse my location al the way across the country, not to mention my girlfriend’s unwarranted aversion to beans in most forms, but such is life. At least someone around here is enjoying some legume action.

  • 10 claudia // Feb 11, 2008 at 9:58 am

    justin – that was such a great ad campaign – you made me crack up…

    demo – i was JUST reading about this very thing YESTERDAY in the book Heat. carerina de medici left italy in 1533 to become the future queen of france and jump started the culinary revolution by giving away all of italy’s kitchen secrets…

    donald – yes, you are partly to blame for this…

    diana – i am taking off for nyc today for 8 days but when i get back, expect beans!

    cookie – i live to show you a thing or two… :)

  • 11 Lucy // Feb 11, 2008 at 10:23 am

    i’m so intrigued by this; it’s unlike anything i’ve ever seen. a sort of bean bread porridgey mash. but i trust you, ma’am, and with yet another winter storm looming on the horizon, it just might be the ticket.

    ps i’ve missed you too!

  • 12 democommie // Feb 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm


    Have a great time in NYC. If you’re down near The Village there’s a shop that sells lots of different teas and coffees. I can’t think of the name but I believe it’s McScottishsump’n.

    Have you read “Provence A-Z” by Peter Mayes (sp?). It also is full of Provencaleses claims that the French stole everything worthwhile from them. It’s a fun, quick read. I’m working on “Tacitus” a book about a Roman historian, but I think I’ll run by the library and see if they’ve got some food books.

  • 13 joy // Feb 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm


    I LOVE ribollita too! And yours looks perfect. Did you know it’s really a Tuscan dish, not eaten all over Italy. The Tuscans are called “mangiafagioli” for their propensity for eating beans. This dish is a perfect example of the earthy, simple and rustic cuisine that is Tuscan. They put ‘cavolo nero’ – which to us is lacinato kale, the closest thing. Is that what you used?
    ps: the stale bread is usually added the 2nd day, then the whole thing refried as you did on the 3rd, making 3 meals out of one dish! (tuscans are also known for their economy of ingredients. Don’t know what the real story is on the exchange between France and Italy, but there is a world of difference in their cuisines and simple, simple simple is more the Italian way! Have fun in NYC – my bro is a ‘mixologist’ at Freemans if you have a chance to go there. Great place.

  • 14 Maggie // Feb 11, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Rancho Gordo rocks. And so does Claudia.


  • 15 FireDog // Feb 12, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, that’s amazing. Once again I’ve learned about a meal/ dish I’ve never remotely heard of.
    Oh, the child in me just wants to say the other version of the bean song. Friut/ toot. I think you’re a bad influence on me…. Naw.

  • 16 Meg // Feb 13, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I love ribollita. And yours looks so incredibly good. I admit, I like it better when the bread is in crostini form (some of it, anyway), even if it is a bit less authentic. If I had the energy to make ribollita, just for me, right now, I would. But… I think the closest I’ll come right now is to ogling yours. And it looks mighty good.

  • 17 Ethel // Feb 13, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    This reminds me of being in Italy. Looks really delish. Great post!

  • 18 Ethel // Feb 13, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Is lacinato kale readily available at most markets, as I have never seen it in my grocery store?

  • 19 robin // Feb 13, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    You are sooo in my head right now. I’ve been eating a lot of beans lately after a December (and most of January) of decadence and OVERindulgence.

    Your ribollita recipe sounds gorgeous and that picture is PERFECT!

  • 20 claudia // Feb 14, 2008 at 6:29 am

    ethel – lacinato kale seems pretty widely available. whole foods/the fresh market has it in nashville pretty regularly.

    robin – after this nyc trip and then a week long fast… i am on the beans for sure. i’ll be all low fat and low money…

    meg – just so very not hard – don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off!

    firedog – i was going back and forth on which to choose. went with the fart song. i just hadda…

    maggie – back atcha!!!

    joy – great comment! freemans is on my list but not this trip…

    ok – i am running late for a breakfast so keep your cards and letters coming, ok?

  • 21 denise // Feb 20, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I just made Ribollita a month ago – loved it! Jamie Oliver’s recipe is easy and tasty. I know what you mean about these beans at Rancho .. the talk about town. We have yet to try them and we live in the Bay Area!

    While in NY, you MUST try the Little Owl in the west village – super tasty, great atmosphere! As well try Extra Virgin for brunch …. yummy eggs!

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