© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations


Soup's on! Tuscan kale salad, lentil soup with spinach, and toast with garlic herb butter.
Cory Turner
Soup's on! Tuscan kale salad, lentil soup with spinach, and toast with garlic herb butter.

And as to which wine I would serve, my beloved Valpolicella Ripasso would be absolutely perfect.

Years ago I was in Florence on holiday, and I was thoroughly enjoying the local cuisine. One item that caught my eye was a soup called "ribollita" with a seeming endless list of ingredients. I told Chef Jerry Pellegrino that I tried it a few times at different restaurants, and it was never the same way twice.

Interestingly, the name "ribollita" means "re-boiled" soup, primarily because it was an improvised soup made from yesterday's left-over minestrone. Standard ingredients include torn-up bread, white beans, garlic, a leafy green vegetable and tomatoes, and in all authentic recipes, a chunk of parmesan cheese rind.

I found dozens of recipes on the Internet, no two of which were exactly alike. But here are the basics with a word on variations.

This is a one pot dish, so choose a big one. First you'll sauté a mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions. At this time you can throw in any seasonal vegetables that strike your fancy. Next you will add one or two cans of diced tomatoes with their juice. Stir over low heat until everything is soft.

Your next ingredient is the leafy green. Kale is traditional, and here in Baltimore we have access to Joe Bartenfelder's field-grown kale, which comes in 4 or 5 varieties. You will want to peel the leaves off the stalk, and then cut them up. Since some kale is on the tough side, you might want to switch to mature spinach or Swiss chard.

Next add your broth (either chicken or vegetable) and cook the greens. A little white wine or white vermouth wouldn't be out of place. I would avoid adding tasteless water.

Next come the beans and the chunk of cheese rind. There is a lot of leeway with the beans. Cannelloni are the traditional choice, but all of the white beans, speckled beans, and even black beans are legit. If you get them canned, they are already soft, and they are packed with a flavorful liquid. If you start with dried beans, you will need to soak them over night. Even with a couple hours of gentle cooking you won't get hard beans soft enough to enjoy.

And about that chunk of parmesan cheese rind. Experienced cooks swear it adds a creaminess to the soup.

There are two or three opinions on when to add the bread, or what kind. Should it be fresh crusty bread or stale? Should you toast it? Should you add it early and let it soften and soak up broth? Or should it come in late, almost as a garnish?

Since the purpose of the bread is to thicken the soup, an early entrance make sense. But when you add pieces of stale bread later, you get to play with the texture. Why not do both?

Seasonings can include salt and pepper, chili flakes, and a bouquet garni of fresh herbs.

A final decision is how thick you want it. Ribollita is listed as either a soup or a stew, so the mount of broth you have makes the difference.

Finally you want to let this soup have a long, slow cook so I think one hour is the bare minimum.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.