Ribollita is a famous Italian soup that is believed to originate in the Middle Ages in Tuscany (via The Florentine). Italian peasants would smuggle away bread dunked in meat juices from their noblemen’s tables and use it to thicken and flavor an autumnal vegetable soup. The types of vegetables varied, depending on what they had at hand, but a primary ingredient was always beans. (In Italy, Tuscans are known as mangiafagioli, or "bean-eaters".)
Recipe developer and registered dietician Kristen Carli has created a gluten-free version of ribollita, replacing the day-old bread with shredded chicken. "I love the idea of shredded chicken in soups," she told us. "This way they are more hearty." Ribollita translates to "re-boiled" because Tuscan cooks would often make a large pot of the soup so it could be reheated and enjoyed for several days. Carli’s recipe is cooked in a slow cooker, so it’s super easy to prepare in only 10 minutes, and 4 hours of slow cooking later, you’ll have steaming bowls of a delicious classic Italian soup.
Gather the ingredients for the slow cooker chicken ribollita
The aromatics for Carli’s ribollita are the basics for almost every soup: carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. You’ll need 2 cups of shredded chicken, too. You can poach a couple of chicken breasts or cook them in an Instant Pot. A real timesaver is picking up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket and shredding the breast meat. If you do choose the rotisserie chicken route, you won’t need the drumsticks, wings, or thighs, so save them for another use. Then again, if you really love dark meat, there’s no reason you couldn’t add them into the soup as well.
Carli’s recipe calls for 1 pound of dried cannellini beans, but if you can’t find them, great northern beans are nearly identical. "As a dietician, I love a veggie-filled soup," Carli told us, and she adds a big punch of green flavor with healthy chopped kale and parsley just before serving.
Add the aromatics, then the beans and chicken
Carli’s method is to layer the ingredients in the slow cooker in a particular order. Start with the aromatics. Dice half of a yellow onion, 2 stalks of celery, and 1 carrot. You could choose to peel or not peel the carrot. Using a vegetable peeler will take you all of five seconds to complete this task, more or less. According to Cook’s Illustrated, the skin of unpeeled carrots tastes bitter and gritty when roasted, so they highly recommend peeling them. It’s not really as necessary for making a soup, however, and if you choose to not peel the carrot, be sure to at least scrub it well before dicing it.
Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, then spread the shredded chicken on top of the aromatics. "The chicken absorbs all of the flavor of the soup by putting it in at the beginning," Carli told us. As for the beans, she designed this recipe so you don’t have to soak the beans overnight. But if you do want to soak them, you’ll shave off 30 minutes of cooking time. When they’re cooked, spread the beans on top of the chicken.
Add the seasonings, then the tomatoes and broth
Next up are the seasonings. Add to the slow cooker crock 1 bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Keep the seasonings to one side of the pot, as you’ll be stirring everything together in a couple of minutes.
Next, pour in one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 2 quarts of chicken broth, and 4 cups of water. If you don’t have crushed tomatoes on hand, a good alternative is whole Italian plum tomatoes, which you can then squeeze into pieces in the slow cooker with your hand. Stir all of the ingredients together, cover, and set the slow cooker for 4 hours on high heat.
Cook the ribollita, then stir in kale and parsley
Wash the kale and pat it dry with paper towels. Using a paring knife or kitchen scissors, remove the tough center stem from the bunch of kale and discard. When you’ve removed all stems, lay 2 or 3 leaves on top of each other and slice them vertically. If you don’t care for kale, Carli recommends substituting it with spinach. Coarsely chop the parsley and set it aside.
When the ribollita is done, pick out the bay leaf and discard it. Add the kale and parsley, and stir until they begin to wilt. Serve the soup in individual bowls, and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese on top. Ribollita will taste even more amazing the next day as all of the flavors will get a chance to meld together as it sits in the fridge. If you do have leftovers, let the soup cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a container and refrigerate. The next day, bring the soup to a boil and enjoy it again.
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 1 pound dried great northern or cannellini beans
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
- ¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Add diced yellow onion, celery, carrot, and minced garlic to the slow cooker pot.
- Add cooked shredded chicken on top of the aromatics, then add great northern or cannellini beans on top of the chicken.
- Add bay leaf, red chili flakes, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper to the slow cooker.
- Pour in chicken broth, water, and can of crushed tomatoes.
- Stir everything together, then close the lid, and program the slow cooker for 4 hours on high.
- After 4 hours, remove the slow cooker’s lid and pick out the bay leaf. Add chopped kale (with stems removed) and chopped parsley.
- Stir the ribollita until the kale and parsley wilt. Serve in bowls with optional grated Parmesan cheese on top.