Saturday, October 19, 2013

Passata del Vedure

This is one of the keepers from a cooking class I took in Florence. The name of the school was Le Cordon Bleu. I would never have chosen a cooking school with a French name in Florence but my amica del cuore, Laura wanted me to go with her so I did. Thankfully the teachers were Tuscan and for the most part they stuck to Italian cuisine but I know they had spent time in France because they kept sneaking butter into the recipe's. Tuscan's who have never left Tuscany usually only use olive oil in their cooking. I personally am glad to be living in a region that only uses olive oil because as soon as I start to use butter the seal affect takes over (a layer of fat starts to form under my skin as if my body was preparing for a very cold winter) .

I am diverging but I can't help talking about olive oil because as I write they are picking the olives out my window and I know very very soon I will have the taste of wonderful spicy olive oil hitting the back of my throat. Olio nuovo. Sigh. It is seriously one of the best things about living in Tuscany. When it is freshly pressed the flavor is so intense and spicy. After a couple of months it fades unless you freeze it. It is worth the price of a ticket just to taste the olive oil coming out of the press.

Ok back to the passata del vedure. It is a soup made of your vegetable of choice (I always use broccoli but you can use what you like). I made this for Shad and Davis (an American friend living in our village) after school one day. After he arrived home his mother called and said, "My son was telling me how good lunch was and I want to know how you got my son to eat broccoli?" So this is a soup but it is really just the most delicious way to eat broccoli. It might even convert a few skeptical children.


About 4 cups chopped broccoli (500 grams)
2 or 3 starchy potatoes
4 tablespoons of oil
3 cups or more of stock
1/2 teaspoon of curry
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
oil for decorating the top or cream


Clean and chop the potatoes and vegetables. In a heavy pot heat the olive oil, and add the potatoes. Cook on medium heat but don't brown for a few minutes. Add curry and stir. Add the broccoli and stir until bright green. Add the stock and boil for about 10 minutes until everything is tender.

Remove from heat and puree' with an immersion blender. Adjust with stock if too thick.

Serve with whatever decoration on top you like (oilve oil, stream of cream) and fresh chives if you have them.

Bon Appetito! 


I can still remember clearly the first time I had a bowl of Ribollita. It was on a crisp day in Fiesole in the Fall of 2000. We were considering moving to Florence from Slovenia and life was uncertain and painful as it often is during major transitions. The air was cold and wind cutting as we stepped into the warm embrace of a local restaurant called Perseus. Legs of prosciutto were hanging from the ceiling and big sides of La Bistecca Fiorentina prominently displayed. It was very rustic with pietra serena stone and wood beams everywhere. As we sat down, I asked as I often do in new places, something like "What do I need to eat to understand this place and it's people?" What was set before me was Ribollita, one of Autumn's greatest harvest dishes. It filled more than my stomach on that day and many after.

Writing the recipe for Ribollia transports me to another era and feels sacred as it captures ancient ways of life. Images of peasant Tuscan farmers from whom it orginated back in the 1300's come to mind. It is to be made in the Fall as the air turns crisp, the colors are changing and the flavours of our table have changed seasons. Tuscan's are known to be mangiafagioli (bean eaters) so this dish is a favorite as a primo piatto or even hearty enough for a piatto unico. I learned how to make it from Marco, who was as big and hearty as the dishes he made. He would explain each step then look at me quizically until he was sure I understood the importance of each ingredient. Grazie Mille Marco!

For the beans:
1/2 kilo small canellini beans
See my post on Tuscan Beans which need to be made in advance of the preparation for Ribollita. Save the cooking water for the stock.

Equal parts of Onion, carrot, celery (so for those of you who need detail like 2 onions, and 4 or 5 each of carrots and celery)
clove of garlic (don't improvise here as tuscans don't eat a lot of garlic)
4 ripe tomatoes
1 huge bunch of cavolo nero (kale) leaves (stripped roughly off from the stems)
Optional (a bunch of curly cabbage like napa)

Heel of the parmegiano
olive oil 
perperoncino (hot red pepper-optional)
salt and pepper

 Half a loaf (less or more as you like) cubed 2 day old bread. 
Tuscan bread is hearty and has no salt. In place of this you need pugliese or a heavier bread you would get from a bakery. NOT french, it's too light and airy. If you have fresher bread then cube it and dry it a bit in the oven before adding to the soup. 


Wash, peel and roughly chop the vegetables; sauté the onion and garlic clove for a few minutes in olive oil. Then add the carrots and celery and continue on for a few minutes. Then add the cavolo nero leaves and napa cabbage (if using), Keep sweating without browning until the green of the cavalo nero becomes brighter. Add the tomatoes cut into large pieces, a generous cup of water from the beans, the heel of the parmeggiano, salt, pepper a little red pepper (optional) and let simmer a few minutes to let the tomatoes break down.

Add to this the cannellini beans and enough cooking liquid from the beans plus chicken stock to cover by a coupld of inches. Simmer for one hour until the veggis are tender and there's a good marriage of everything. Turn off heat and take out the heel of the parmeggiano and add a bunch of chopped parsley. Add the bread with more cooking water from the beans if needed. It should be thick like a stew but the bread will soak up quite a bit of liquid so you don't want a spoon to stand up in it! Let is rest for a hour preferably then reheat for a few minutes before serving adding more stock if necessary. This is even better the next day so letting it sit overnight is even better!

To serve, grate parneggiano and drizzle olive oil on top.