Country Ribollita

"Ribollita is a classic Tuscan soup based on vegetables, beans, and stale bread. I’ve got all that going on here, but with field peas, limas, cornbread and salt pork.

Yes, it’s a big pot of soup. I can’t make a small one. I usually make this on winter weekends to eat throughout the week. Ben poaches a couple of eggs in it and eats a huge bowl for breakfast. Basil or Arugula Pesto makes a nice bright condiment." – Vivian Howard 

Yield: 4 quarts or 10 servings

  • 1 cup dried lima beans
  • 1/2 cup dried field peas or black-eyed peas
  • 10 to 11 ounces cured pork seasoning meat
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium or 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 6 cups cubed day-old cornbread
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Soak the lima and peas in water separately overnight. The next day, combine the pork with 10 cups water in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and bring it up to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add the field peas and simmer for 10 minutes. Then stir in the limas. Cover and cook an additional 30 to 40 minutes. The field peas should be tender and the limas cooked through. Some of the limas will be falling apart. You want this to happen because it will make the finished soup a bit creamy. If this is not the case, continue to simmer the beans till it is. Once the beans are as they should be, take them off the heat, pluck out the pork, and set it aside. You may want to put little bits of it in the final dish.
  3. In a separate 4-quart Dutch oven, sweat the onions with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, celery, and carrot and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t let anything brown.
  4. Add the red wine and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and all the beans, as well as their cooking liquid. Bring it up to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, cover again, and cook an additional 10 minutes.
  5. In a perfect kitchen you’d make this in an actual 4-quart Dutch oven, chill it down overnight to let the flavors marry, then bring it out the next day about an hour before you wanted to serve it. You’d preheat your oven to 375F and heat the stew gently on your stove just to take the chill off. Then you’d toss the cornbread with the rest of the olive oil and Parm, sprinkle it on top of the stew, and slide the whole pot onto the middle rack of the oven. You’d bake it for 30 minutes. During that time you’d see the cornbread toast and the stew bubble up some around the sides.
  6. Then you’d serve it to people who were really excited. If you don’t cook in a perfect kitchen—like me and everyone else I know— you can still serve this to people who are really excited by tossing and toasting the bread with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and the Parm and serving it over the hot stew.