Most Italians, particularly Tuscans, have their own take on ribollita, bread soup. This one is mine, inspired from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi as published in his book Plenty. It is vegan, but honestly no meat eater would pay any notice to this fact. Hearty and warming, it makes a wonderful lunch. You can substitute white beans for the chickpeas. Greens also make a nice addition. I sometimes throw in a handful of chopped kale near the end of the cooking time if I have some lying around.

Serves 4 generously.

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, diced.
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • olive oil.
  • 1 big carrot, peeled and sliced into thin half moons; quartered if the carrot is especially fat.
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced.
  • 1 cup (250ml) white wine.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste.
  • 1 – 14oz (375-500 ml) can diced tomatoes. Do not drain.
  • fresh herbs: oregano, Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary. Finely chop the leaves into a good sized heap that looks like it equals about 5 tablespoons.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups (1 litre) vegetable stock; with extra in reserve.
  • 2 slices of sourdough bread, hard crust removed.
  • 1 – 14oz can of chickpeas or 2 cups home cooked.
  • pesto, either store bought or homemade. Can be basil or some other herby green mix.

Method

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion and fennel and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. If they start to brown too quickly, lower the heat.
  2. Add the carrots, celery and garlic. Continue cooking until the carrots begin to soften, another 5 minutes or so. Stir to make sure nothing sticks. Add more olive oil if the pan appears dry.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and heat for a minute.
  4. Add wine and cook off the alcohol, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes, herbs and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for half an hour.
  6. Heat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Tear the bread into largish chunks with your hands and toss with some olive oil and salt. Distribute the bread onto a baking tray or sheet pan and bake until dried out. About 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  8. Place the drained chickpeas into a bowl and mash gently with a potato masher, leaving some of them whole. Add to the soup and cook a few minutes.
  9. Remove the bay leaves and throw them away.
  10. Just before you are ready to serve, add the bread to the pot and cook another five minutes.
  11. Add more stock if the soup is bit too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  12. Ladle out the soup and top each bowl with a spoonful of pesto.
  13. Serve.

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