Dinner Tonight: Ribollita and Ricotta Bruschetta

Inspiration for tonight's menu: a taste of the rolling Tuscan countryside to brighten up the evening. Uncork a nice Chianti to sip while you nibble on Merrill's creamy and bright Bruschetta with Ricotta, Honey and Lemon Zest and kick your feet up while you watch your Ribollita simmer away on the stove. Rustic Italian bliss, on your table in under an hour.

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The Menu

Ribollita by la domestique

Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
28 ounces (1 can) plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 pound cavolo nero, or any other variety of kale, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
15 ounces (1 can) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4-6 thick slices of country bread, torn into pieces
4 cups water

1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and crushed red chili pepper flakes. Sweat the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Toss in the carrot and celery with a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, trim the hard stem ends off the tomatoes and discard. Crush the tomatoes with your hands.

4. Pour the tomatoes (and their juices) into the pot with the thyme, potato, and 3 cups water. Bring the soup to a simmer, turn the heat down and partially cover with the lid. Keep the soup at a low simmer for about 20 minutes.

5. Toss in the kale with another cup of water, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.

6. Add the canned beans and continue to simmer the soup 5 more minutes.

7. Stir in the bread and serve with a drizzle of spicy Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. The soup should be thickened by the bread, but not at all dry.

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Bruschetta with Ricotta, Honey and Lemon Zest by merrill

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Grocery List
1 potato
fresh thyme
1lb cavolo nero, or any variety of kale
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans
1 big loaf of country bread (4-6 slices for the soup, the rest for the bruschetta)
1 cup ricotta (for a half recipe, unless there are 10 people eating with you on a weeknight. If that is the case, you should get 2 cups and I bow to you, brave soul!)

As usual, we're assuming that you're a clever and always-prepared home cook, with a well stocked fridge and pantry, in which case you'd have canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, honey, and a lemon. If not, add those to the list, they're handy to have around.

The Plan

This week, The Plan is a bit "Choose Your Own Adventure". We give you ...two plans!

Scenrio #1: Not Starving

1. Tackle the ribollita through step 4, at which point you let the soup simmer for 20 minutes.

2. While the soup simmers, slice, toast and slather your bruschetta! Nibble.

3. Complete the soup & serve, with the ricotta toasts on the side.

Scenario #2: Starving!

1. Make the bruschetta! Immédiatement! Pour yourself a glass of something lovely and preferably Italian while the bread grills. Sip, spread, zest, snack.

2. Now that you've staved off your hunger a bit, dive in to the ribollita.

Aside : If you want something sweet after dinner, throw a little fruit on the grill or grill pan (which should still be hot from toasting the bread) and top it with the remaining ricotta! Presto! Dessert is served!

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