As you may realize by now, my desire is to connect you to the real, authentic Tuscany. A large part of that, of course, is the food. Who better to consult about Tuscan cooking than authentic Tuscan women?
I am presenting a series of recipes from friends, family members and colleagues who are authentic Tuscan women or women from other regions of Italy. The theme is authentic recipes, not Americanized versions. You will find plenty of those online, in cookbooks and on television!
The first thing you should know is that Italian recipes are written with weights (not measurements for cups or spoons). The second thing you must know is that recipes are guidelines and suggestions since everyone has different tastes and traditions. For example, everyone in Tuscany has a different twist on their soups. So, if you want to add an accent of your own (such as a favorite herb), feel free to do so. Just make sure to pay attention to the freshness of each ingredient and that any additions you use be “in tune” with the taste of the recipe.
Manila – Florence, Tuscany, Italy
My friend Manila is a beautiful, doe-eyed woman who lives in Florence. Her husband owns the Ancre jewelry store near Piazza San Marco which is a favorite boutique of the locals.
Manila has raised her three sons in Florence and has taught pre-school and elementary school for many years. Her dream, however, is to own a catering business.
Manila’s passion for Tuscan cuisine is well-known and she is considered one of the best cooks around. My cousins and I were blown away by a meal Manila cooked entirely based on fresh Tuscan mushrooms. When she smilingly opened her front door and the aromas wafted towards us, it was heavenly. And I will never forget about the bone-in prime rib cooked in the wood-burning oven in her courtyard in downtown Florence.
Following is Manila’s recipe for the famous Ribollita (twice boiled) soup of Tuscany. If this recipe works for you half as well as it does for Manila, you will be very happy!
1 kg unsalted Tuscan bread
1 kg cannellini dry cannellini beans
3 bunches Tuscan black cabbage* shredded
1 Napa cabbage shredded
1 leek roughly chopped
4 carrots roughly chopped
1 large onion (red preferred) chopped
4 zucchini sliced
4 potatoes cut into cubes or sliced (your preference)
4 celery stalks roughly chopped
parsley (according to taste)
1 large can San Marzano whole tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
*Kale Laciniato. Known as Tuscan Black Cabbage or Dinosaur Kale in its native Italy, where it is prized for soups and stews. Tall plants have savored, strap shaped leaves up to two feet long.
Follow the dry bean package directions and cook the beans. Saute the onion in the e.v.o.o. Add the tomatoes, the Tuscan black cabbage, the leek, the carrots, the potatoes, etc and add water half the depth of the vegetable mixture.
When these are cooked, take 2/3 of the cooked beans and run them through a food mill, blender or processor until smooth and thick. Add this to the cooked vegetables along with the rest of the cooked beans.
Cook for another 15 minutes.
Slice the bread into 1/4 inch slices and arrange them in the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven add some of the cooked soup. Alternate layers of bread and soup until you have used up all the soup. Let this rest covered for at least 12 hours.
After the ribollita has rested, pour additional e.v.o.o. to taste (anywhere from 2 Tbspns to 1/2 cup). Bring the soup to a slow boil and cook for at least another 1/2 hour. Serve hot.
Ciao a tutti, Serenella