This could be any street in any medieval hamlet in Italy but it isn’t any street. Via Fredrigo Bandini happens to be the street where my Father was born in 1896, in #13, a centuries old stone attached house in Montefollonico, Siena, Italy. I know this little hamlet well as I have visited often. I still have family there and it is my most favorite place in all of Italy.Montefollonico is a picture postcard image, quintessentially Tuscan, hamlet of rolling hills surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. As you follow along with me and my recipes you will get to know Montefollonico very well. To start you off with my often-Tuscan stories and recipes, I’ll acquaint you first with a very old Tuscan recipe. You’ll notice as we go along that Tuscan cuisine is exquisite in its simplicity.
RIBOLLITA A TUSCAN SOUP
(Twice Cooked Soup)
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Oz Pancetta – diced
1 Leek – rinsed and sliced
3 Garlic Cloves – minced
2 Celery Stalks – chopped
2 Carrots – peeled and chopped
1 Bunch Broccoli Rabi – cut in small pieces, tough
1 (15 ½ oz) Can Cannellini or Navy Beans – drained and rinsed
2 Cups Tomatoes – chopped or a small can of
1 Onion – thinly sliced
6 Cups Beef Broth
2 Cups Crusty Bread – torn into bite sized pieces
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for serving
Freshly Grated Cheese – for serving
In a large saucepan heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and cook for 8 – 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir often so as not to burn. Add the cabbage, tomatoes, potato and mix all together. Pour over all of this enough stock or water to cover all the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes. In another pot bring 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook until almost done. Drain and stir into the pot with the vegetables. Add the parsley. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Do not let boil. Taste for salt and pepper and serve hot.
Note: This is a soup usually made when vegetables were in abundance and enough would be made for many meals. So, the next time it was heated it had been cooked twice and that, I was told, is how it got the name “Twice Cooked Soup”. For a little crunch, before I add the bread to the soup, I like to drizzle it with a little olive oil and cheese and toast it in the oven. In some areas of Tuscans, ham fat or bacon rind are added to the soup.
In Tuscany, the traditional way to enjoy this soup is to have a dish of scallions nearby. Then a spoonful of soup and a bite of scallion dipped in salt. And often times the soup will be scooped up with bread rather than a spoon.