FLORENCE, Italy — What was placed before me at Trattoria San Lorenzo was a soup packed with steaming vegetables, not even close to simmering loosely in a pool of broth. Just a few simple ingredients–white cannellini beans, tender celery, carrots, chunks of potato and deep green kale–made this dish come alive with flavor. A bowl of warm and crunchy panne toscano, Tuscan bread, waited patiently to be soaked up in the thick and flavorful broth.
Ribollita, meaning “re-boiled” is a traditional stew famous throughout the central region of Tuscany. Combining a mixture of ingredients that are leftover from past meals creates this particular zuppa, or thick soup. It originated from peasants in the Tuscan region in the 13th and 14th centuries who used all of their resources to keep themselves fed when working hard all day. Any sort of beef, chicken or pork was mostly out of reach for peasants; it was served only to the wealthy aristocrats. Peasants filled up on any vegetables they could get.
The ingredients used in the Middle Ages are much the same as today, but now ribollita is a unique staple item of Tuscany that remains drenched in the history of the region just like that last bite of panne toscano soaked in a timeless flavor, centuries in the making.