Authentic Tuscan Ribolitta Recipe

Week three – What’s In the Box?

My friend Debbie and I are not your typical students. We are both women that went back to school mid-life and have adult children. So when she asked me to study abroad in Florence two summers ago, I knew it was now or never. We lived with an Italian family, cooked with grandma and walked to class every day for a month. We traveled on the weekends and tried to eat everywhere we could. We both became obsessed with Tuscan Ribollita.

There is a specific black cabbage that is used for this peasant soup and I searched high and low for it for Christmas one year and was told it appears only once a year and in very limited supplies. So you can understand my excitement this summer when I found Toscano Kale in the box not once, not twice, but three times!!

The prized Tuscan specialty referred to as “cavolo nero” or black cabbage in English is a cross between cabbage and kale, and is abundantly available in Tuscany where it is used in soups and stews. Researchers believe it may have been grown as a food crop as early as 2000 B.C. Low in calories and a member of the Crucifer or mustard family, Toscano kale offers vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and potassium. This particular variety has more than twice the levels of carotene and lutein, two phytonutrients which act as antioxidants, compared to other varieties.


Madeline Basler
Servings 6


  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 leek sliced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 17 oz black cabbage shredded (I used the bunch from the box)
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 bouillon cube I use a 32oz. box of organic low sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste I used 2 Tablespoons
  • 250 gr 8oz cooked white beans, ½ pureed and ½ left whole
  • Salt and pepper I don’t add salt but add a little Romano at the end
  • 17 oz of Tuscan stale bread I used whole wheat cubed


  • Heat oil; add onion and leek and sauté until golden.
  • Add remaining vegetables and pepper and stir well.
  • Cover and cook until reduced by half of the original volume.
  • Add tomato paste, bouillon cube (or chicken broth) and water (if you use the bouillon cube), and bring to a boil. (the more water you add the less dense the soup will be)
  • Lower the heat and cool for at least an hour.
  • Add the stale bread; mix well and bring to a boil again.
  • Serve warm with a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil and Romano cheese.


Recipe adapted from Food, Culture & Society

Hope your family likes it as much as mine does. For Debbie and I, it reminds us of a special time, in a special place, and of the once in a lifetime experience that we shared.

So how did we enjoy the rest of what was in the box? We grilled the Walla Walla onions (more about those next week) and fennel, made cucumber vodka cocktails (100 calories!) with my cucumbers also dipped them in hummus and ate them in my salad. The sun gold tomatoes went in my whole wheat, avocado, arugula pesto pasta salad – so delish. That baby watermelon was sooo sweet (also more about this great summertime fruit next week)!

Until next time, enjoy your vegetables!