We have a large vegetable garden (or orto), which provides us with fresh vegetables all year round. One of the best things about Tuscany is the food – local, fresh, simple and full of flavour, and we are happy to share our recipes with you for the Tuscan fare that we prepare with ingredients from our garden.
This beautiful black cabbage is now in season and it is a favourite on the Tuscan table through the autumn and winter months. A member of the brassica family, it is highly nutritious, full of antioxidants and imparts a wonderful depth of flavour to a dish. If time is short, there is nothing better than slicing it up and tossing in a pan with some garlic, pepperoncino and a decent amount of Montecalvi Extra Virgin Olive Oil. However, if you have a little more time, it’s worth investing in a good Ribollita, which fills the soul and the stomach in equal measure. There are hundreds of family recipes for this simple dish, here is ours. There is always a large pan on the go at Montecalvi during harvest.
This hearty stew is believed to date back to medieval times in Tuscany when, at the end of a grand banquet, the serving staff would pocket the crumbs from the table and mix them with the leftover vegetables or precious meat juices then take this home and re-boil (the translation of Ribollita) adding in some beans for additional sustenance.
Serves 4 (as a complete lunch or dinner)
Pane Raffermo (day-old Tuscan unsalted bread) – around 4 slices
If you have it available, dip the bread in some juices from a roasting tray (especially good after roasting pork), add half a glass of last night’s red wine and soak it all up into the bread. Then set aside.
- 1 large cup of dried cannellini beans
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 4 or 5 sage leaves
- 3 or 4 bay leaves
- Montecalvi Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Soak the beans overnight in water, rinse and cover again with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil. Add the garlic, herbs, olive oil, and simmer for about an hour until tender. Leave to rest in the cooking water until needed.
- 3 small carrots
- 2 small red onions
- 4 ripe tomatoes
- 1 huge bunch of young cavolo nero leaves
Wash, peel and roughly chop all of the vegetables. Let the onion soften in a pan with olive oil gradually for about 10 minutes, then add the carrots and cavolo nero. Sautee together coating fully with the olive oil until the cavolo nero leaves become a brighter green. Add the diced tomatoes as well as a cup of water and some seasoning and simmer for around 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Then add the cannellini beans with half of their cooking water and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Season to taste (if you season the beans too early, they can become tough). Add the bread along with further bean water if needed and combine over a low heat for about 5 minutes.
You can then serve, or indeed keep it over night and serve the following day (it’s actually even better the day after). Just re-heat in a pan and add more water as needed. Serve with a generous amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled on top.
For us, the perfect wine with Ribollita is Montecalvi San Piero 2013. The simplicity of this hearty soup is lifted to a new level by the elegance and complexity of our San Piero.