Ribollita Soup Is The Perfect Way To Use Up Stale Bread

Where would we be, as cooks, without those classic leftover dishes that make smart use of leftover ingredients? We're thinking, for example, of Italian spaghetti frittata, which binds leftover pasta into a warm, fluffy egg omelet; Chinese fried rice, which reworks cold, dry rice into a steaming, flavorful dish; and the Mexican breakfast classic chilaquiles, which revives stale tortillas by frying them in oil and then bathing them in warm salsa. These reworked dishes are adept at making "something out of nothing," saving us money in the process as we use up every last bit of pasta, rice, tortillas, and more — instead of throwing them out.

Many of these leftover classics, as you've undoubtedly noticed, feature bread. Quick to go stale due to the starch molecules inside the loaf crystallizing and producing a dry, hard texture, bread can seem to morph from fluffy and fresh to dense and inedible in the blink of an eye (via Science Focus). Thrifty cooks who don't want to throw it out have found uncountable ways to use up the stale stuff, from French toast to bread pudding to panzanella to plain ol' croutons. 

If you've found yourself staring down a stale loaf of bread on more than one occasion, then ribollita, a classic Italian soup featuring kale and white beans, is another leftover special you'll want to add to your repertoire.

Stale bread thickens ribollita and gives it a hearty texture

Have you heard of ribollita? A hearty soup-verging-on-stew prepared with kale, white beans, tomatoes, and other aromatic vegetables, this storied Tuscan dish dates back to the Middle Ages, according to Italy Magazine. In that heavily Catholic era, religious folks refrained from eating meat or any other "rich" foods such as lard and dairy products on Fridays, and instead stirred together dishes heavily based on grains, vegetables, and, of course, bread.

One common Friday meal was ribollita, a basic formula for soup that threw together leftover ingredients — "ribollita" means "reboiled." One item almost always used in the soup was any stale bread kicking around the kitchen, whose starches nicely thicken the robust soup. MasterClass notes that stale bread is actually a better choice than fresh bread, as its slight resistance produces a chewy, not mushy, soup, and recommends using a hearty type such as ciabatta or sourdough. So the next time you're looking to use up a stale loaf, stat, ribollita might be just the nourishing, filling dish you need.