Ribollita (Tuscan Kale and Bean Soup)

A very good friend of mine from high school  found me on Facebook.  We lost touch shortly after high school, and she reached out to me.  I knew that she had married, and become a talented photographer, but I didn’t know much more.  Just this weekend, Jenn posted a series of messages about it being the 10th anniversary of her husband’s passing.  He died servicing our country on Memorial Day weekend.  I was haunted by reading her  tragic events of the day.  I couldn’t imagine being separated from my husband as she had been, and then widowed at the age of 27.  What deeply moved me was what happened the next day as told by Jenn:

The next day I got a card in the mail. On the cover it had a mouse on a balcony with an arrow pointing to it saying “Here I am…” Then another arrow pointing in the other direction saying “… and there you are”. The inside said “…one of us is in the wrong place!”. He personalized it with sweet words including this which pierced through me, “I saw this card and thought you might like it. I will be in the Right place soon enough…” I thought of him in heaven looking down saying these exact words. It comforted me at the same time.

Jenn, if I could make something to comfort you, I would make you this hearty soup that has always lifted my spirits and brought people closer together.  Thank you for your courage and strength in sharing your story, and for reminding us all what Memorial Day is really about.

Ribollita (Tuscan Kale and Bean Soup)
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
4 oz pancetta, diced (may substitute bacon)
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 16 oz can cannelini beans, drained
1 zucchini, chopped
1 summer squash, chopped
1 32 oz box chicken broth
3 bay leaves, dried
1 T herbs de provence, dried
1 bunch kale, destemmed and chopped
1/2 cup (approx to taste) parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

6 slices ciabatta bread, toasted
1 garlic clove

Drizzle olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Place pancetta in pot for several minutes.  Add onions, carrots, and parsnips (unfortunately not in season here, so added another carrot) into pot, and cook for approx. 10 minutes until onions slightly caramelized and pancetta lightly browned.  Add tomatoes, cannelini beans, zucchini, summer sqash, chicken broth, bay leaves, and herbs de provence into pot.  Bring pot to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.  Add kale, additional water if needed and continue simmering for 15 more minutes.  Add parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.  Soup tastes even better the next day.

Toast ciabatta slices.  Rub garlic clove on toast, and serve with soup.  Sprinke parmesan on top of soup.  Serves 6.

Pull leaves away from stem bottom to de-stem kale
then chop kale leaves
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