As nights turn cold, there is no meal more comforting to come home to than a warm and satisfying Tuscan soup. Along with the famous ribollita, Tuscany’s soups include the delicious and hearty zuppa Ricasoli, which features beans and sausage.
Named after Baron Bettino Ricasoli, zuppa Ricasoli is a true Florentine soup. Ricasoli, known as the Iron Baron for his ethics and honesty, was placed in charge of Florence in 1859 and was eventually made prime minister of Italy.
He dedicated much of his life to caring for the Tuscan countryside, cultivating grapes, and is partly to thank for the fame and success of Chianti wine, which his family still produces in Brolio.
Some say Ricasoli’s ghost still haunts the Castello di Brolio, wandering the vineyards of the estate at night.
A great lover of both food and wine, Ricasoli favoured simple, rustic dishes that matched his down-to-earth character. This earthy, wholesome recipe created by Florentine chef Ferdinando Grandi in the 1800s was Baron Ricasoli’s preferred dish: hence it became known as zuppa Ricasoli.
RECIPE – Zuppa Ricasoli (serves 4)
1 small white cabbage
500 g butter or cannellini beans
100 g pancetta
2 Tuscan sausages
50 g extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices of Tuscan bread
Fry the pancetta in olive oil for a few minutes in a large pan until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove the skin from the sausages and add to the pancetta, breaking it down into small pieces. Leave to brown for a few minutes.
In the meantime, finely slice the cabbage. Add the cabbage to the pan and fry until it begins to wilt. Add the butter beans and enough vegetable stock to generously cover the contents of the pan. Leave to simmer for 15–20 minutes, breaking down some of the butter beans to thicken the stock and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
While the soup is cooking, toast slices of Tuscan bread, top them with Asiago cheese and melt under the grill. Place a slice of toast, cut in half, in the bottom of each dish and cover with the hot soup.
Take on an autumnal picnic or serve at the table with sweet, late-harvest grapes and chunks of fettunta—toasted Tuscan bread drenched with the new season’s olive oil.