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Judith Barrett's Ribollita Di Toscana

Ribollita is the classic Tuscan bread-and-vegetable soup invented to use up stale bread. Cambridge author Judith Barrett adds potatoes, cabbage, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and white beans to the pot. In Saved by Soup (William Morrow), she writes that the soup is best made ahead and refrigerated overnight. The bread must be stale, she says, or it will dissolve into the soup.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 russet or Idaho potato, peeled and cut into cubes
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 bunch green Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with their juice
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth, free of fat
2 cups cooked or canned small white beans (cannellini)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound stale Italian bread, sliced into
1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a heavy, 4-quart flameproof casserole, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the potato, cabbage, and Swiss chard. Continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and broth, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the saucepan, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans and cook for 15 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle about 2/3 of the soup from the casserole into a large bowl. Arrange half of the bread slices over the remaining soup in the pot.

Return half the soup from the bowl to the pot so it covers the bread. Arrange the remaining bread over the soup in the pot and top with the remaining soup.

Set the saucepan over medium-low heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for 1 hour more, stirring occasionally to incorporate the bread into the soup.

Let the soup cool completely and refrigerate it overnight. Reheat it, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat.

Sprinkle with cheese, if you like, and serve at once.

Serves 4

By Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven

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