TUSCAN RECIPES … today, TWO TUSCAN SOUPS
Nonna Margherita Dottorelli in her kitchen, 1905
Some excellent Tuscan recipes from her granddaughter, Marta, who refuses to be just a character in a novel made up by that writer
Two More Soups
Now we are at the end of the week, still with too much excellent not-too-fresh bread. Good, perhaps the family will visit, and you will want to serve them lovely soup.
For the first day, I think you will make the favorite Minestrone di Verdura.
Already you will have soaked overnight three cupfuls of dried white beans. These you will simmer.
You will at the same time make the odori,with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cooking in half a cup of olive oil.
Perhaps also you will add some pancetta, finely chopped.
To the odori you will add half of the cooked beans (save the rest in coolness), four finely chopped tomatoes (or some from tins) and one whole large calvalo nero (our good “black” cabbage) or, if you cannot get this, you may use “Savoy” cabbage, or kale.
I have told you, before, that I do not “have time” to make “stock”.
This is not entirely right. If I am cooking some chickens I will save the carcasses and the bones, and later I will roast them again, and then boil them along with the chicken heads and “insides” and feet, and this will make a lovely stock. But as I also said, I am very busy. And so – like many Tuscan wives – I will also often use a “cube” or two, to flavor my soup. We have very good “cubes” in Italy. You can get them at the big store called the COOP.
So for my Minestrone di Verdura, I will add now twelve cups of water, and two cubes, and let this all cook but not too much. When my family arrives I will warm it again and taste if it needs salt. By then the beans will have a little gone to softness, and the soup will be very thick.
We will eat this in deep bowls, with a little of my very best olive oil. poured on top. What is left I will save for tomorrow.
Ecco, la Ribollita!
Now you will use more of that bread that will otherwise last forever.
You will slice it thickly, put a layer in the bottom of a deep pottery dish for the oven, pour a big ladleful of soup to soak the bread, with some of the saved beans — then another layer of bread, then more soup and beans, and if your dish is big enough, still another layer of bread and soup and beans, with the last of the beans on top, and heat it in the oven till it is bubbling and nice, with a little more olive oil – and also if you like, some grated Parmigiano Reggiano to make a little crust. Or you can sprinkle this on individual bowls at the table.
You will find Ribollita on the menu in many expensive ristoranti in Tuscany, but none I think as good as mine, which is handed down to me from Nonna Margherita’s time (though I will confess she always made her own “stock”).
Later, I bring some down for Signora Chiara. But what is this? She has gone off somewhere without letting me know!