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Recipe for Ribollita
(Tuscan Minestrone)

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Larry Theobald of CycleItalia sent me this simple, classic Tuscan recipe for vegetable soup that anyone, even bike racers, can make.

Fall is soup time. There's nothing like stumbling into an osteria in Tuscany on a cold afternoon and sitting down to a hot bowl of soup. Soups always sound hard to make but in reality they're very simple but they do take a bit of time and patience. Make this in advance so when you come back starving after that big ride on a cool day, all you need to do is heat this up. Racers like Gino Bartali and Marco Pantani well knew the restorative powers of a good soup. Note: Italian soups are ALWAYS better the next day. In the CycleItalia kitchen we NEVER eat soup on the day its made! There's something about cooling down in the fridge, then being warmed up again that brings all the flavors together. In fact, Ribollita means re-boiled or twice cooked!

1 cup dried white beans (cannellini, great northern, etc.) soaked in water overnight

3 quarts water or broth

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ pound bacon, minced (pancetta is better, if you can find it)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1 medium carrot, minced

1 rib celery, minced

¼ cup parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

1 pound Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced

4 cups canned whole tomatoes

Salt & Pepper

Drain beans, put in soup pot with broth or water. Bring to boil, cook over medium heat until tender (30-40 minutes). Meanwhile, heat oil in saucepan, add bacon, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, parsley and rosemary, sauté 5-7 minutes. Add cabbage, cook 2-3 minutes more, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and cook 8-10 minutes. Puree half the beans (an immersion blender comes in handy for this but you can simply mash 'em up with a potato masher too) then add everything to the soup pot. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Best when reheated and served over toasted bread slices rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.

Larry Theobald and his wife Heather operate CycleItalia cycling tours.