“After hearing about Rae’s romantic trip to Pisa with her husband-to-be (at the time), where they enjoyed a game-changing bowl of bread soup that they’ve often talked about since, but never managed to recreate, I just had to find a way – and in time for their 20th anniversary, too.
After a little bit of digging, I managed to work out that the dish they ordered was listed on the menu as ‘Zuppa Toscana’ (often written this way on tourist menus for ease), but is in fact called ‘ribollita’. Ribollita was traditionally cooked to use up leftovers, but is so incredibly delicious that it’s often made in its own right these days. It literally means ‘reboiled’ and embraces the heart and soul of humble, Italian cookery. I hope that this recipe transports Rae and her husband back to that special meal in Pisa for many years to come. ”
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, finely chop and add the pancetta, chilli flakes and fennel seeds, then fry for 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the carrot and celery into 1cm chunks, and peel finely chop the onion. Tie the rosemary sprigs together with string.
Add the chopped veg and rosemary to the pan, then reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and caramelised.
Tip in the tomatoes, squashing and crushing them through your clean hands, followed by the beans (juice and all), and 1.8 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the veg is tender and the liquid has thickened slightly.
Meanwhile, strip the cavolo nero leaves from their stalks and roughly chop them, adding them to the pan after 10 minutes.
When the veg is tender, pick out and discard the rosemary.
Tear the bread into small chunks, dot it into the pan, and continue to simmer gently for around 10 minutes, or until the bread has broken down and the soup is thick and creamy, stirring regularly.
Season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper, then drizzle lightly with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil before serving.