Winter Squash & Chickpea Ribollita

Squash Ribollita | Big GIrls Small Kitchen

Happy new year! The clicking of digits form 5 to 6 has brought with it one of my three favorite types of New York City weather: the cold, clear day. Though the sun’s still shining brightly enough to keep my cilantro plant alive upstairs in the small kitchen garden, the chill in the air has meant that it finally, finally makes sense to start craving soup. But there is no soup without some carbs.

In the summer, I often use a slice of bread to turn a few tasty extras from the fridge into a meal. I’ll toast and butter a slice and eat with leftover veggies; I’ll tear up some slightly stale pieces and add them to a salad; or I’ll fry up country bread in olive oil and hope it helps the beets go down.

Now that it’s winter, I’m adding soup to the list of fairly healthful foods made better with bread.

Squash Ribollita | Big Girls Small KitchenSquash Ribollita | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I got the motivation from Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes, a cookbook aimed at beginners in which I never cease to locate true excitement about the most everyday of foods. I love that you can be resourceful and have fun in the kitchen at the same time and that not every simple meal is a 30-minute miracle that skimps on flavor in order to save on minutes–and Peternell’s attitude and recipes embody this. So I had a feeling that his careful method for making ribollita would deliver both delicious thrill and total comfort.

Ribollita is, like panzanella, a way to use up stale bread lying on the counter and to bulk up an otherwise bare meal with what’s available. The soup base is a simplified minestrone, just aromatics sweated in olive oil, broth, a few tomatoes, beans, and a couple of vegetables. The triumph is in how the chunks of bread absorb the broth when you leave the soup to rest for 15 minutes before eating (don’t skip this step)–and are ready to absorb the olive oil garnish you’ll pour at the end. Squash Ribollita | Big Girls Small KitchenSquash Ribollita | Big Girls Small KitchenWinter Squash & Chickpea Ribollita

I made a few deviations from Peternell’s recipe, using chickpeas (my favorite bean, especially now that I have an electric pressure cooker–about which, more soon!) instead of white beans and diced winter squash instead of kale. The result, still, was divine: an extraordinarily warming meal in a bowl that delivers your vegetables and your comfort, without busting your gut.

Squash Ribollita | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Winter Squash & Chickpea Ribollita
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 to 8 servings
I cooked up a batch of chickpeas from dried, then measured out two cups. You could also open a can of chickpeas. Taste the liquid in the can, and only pour it into the soup if it tastes good. If your bread isn't stale, put slices in a 250°F oven for about 20 minutes. I used leftover homemade whole wheat bread, but some kind of rustic Italian loaf is more authentic. This is totally vegan--though feel free to use chicken stock if you prefer it to veggie.
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, leaves removed and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped tomato (I chopped about 4 whole tomatoes from a small can; you'll have some left over)
  • 1 cup finely diced winter squash (from about 1 delicata, for example, or from part of a larger squash)
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, with their liquid (from a scant cup dried)
  • about 4 cups coarsely torn stale bread (about 5 thick slices)
  • Delicious olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Heat a large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, onions, and carrots. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. When the veggies sizzle, turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for about 20 minutes, checking and stirring often, and allowing the water to run off the lid and back into the pot when you check - this helps the veggies soften beautifully without browning.
  2. When the veggies are very tender, uncover the pot and add the garlic and sage. Cook for a few minutes, until nice and fragrant. Turn the heat to high and add the tomato, then cook for a few minutes til it gets jammy. Add the squash and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook 1 more minute.
  3. Pour in the stock plus enough water to reach 6 cups total. Add the beans with their cooking liquid. Let the soup come to a boil, then lower the heat to a just-barely-there simmer and cook for 20 minutes without the lid.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat, add the bread, and stir well. Let the soup rest for 15 minutes before serving. (Peternell says you basically can't let it rest too long - it only gets better.) Taste for seasoning, then ladle into bowls and top with plenty of good olive oil.


This post is part of Food Network’s blog roundup, Comfort Food Feast. Here are the other soups that bloggers cooked up:

The Lemon Bowl: Slow Cooker Posole Rojo
Creative Culinary: Split Pea Soup with Carrots and Ham
Homemade Delish: Italian Cioppino Soup
Taste with the Eyes: Wintery French Lentil Soup with Beef, Carrots, Sherry Vinegar
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Tomato Soup
Dishing with Divya: Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Creamy Vegetable Soup
From My Corner of Saratoga: Pressure Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup (in a slow cooker)
Red or Green: New Mexican Green Chile, Turkey & Posole Soup
The Heritage Cook: Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup (Gluten-Free)
In Jennie’s Kitchen: 14 Sensational Soups
The Mediterranean Dish: Mediterranean Spicy Spinach Lentil Soup
The Mom 100: Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup
Healthy Eats: 5 No-Brainers for Improving Chicken Soup
FN Dish: Soup’s On! 5 Warming Must-Make Bowls

Posted in: Comfort Kitchen
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