“Tuscany untied the knots in a man’s intestines, wiped out the ills of his world.”

“Tuscany is a state of grace. The countryside is so lovingly designed that the eye sweeps the mountains and valleys without stumbling over a single stone. The lilt of the rolling green hills, the upsurging cypresses, the terraces sculptured by generations that have handled the rocks with skillful tenderness, the fields geometrically juxtaposed as though drawn by a draftsman for beauty as well as productivity; the battlements of castles on the hills, their towers standing gray-blue and golden tan among the forest of trees, the air of such clarity that every sod of earth stands out in dazzling detail. On both sides of the road the grape-heavy vines were espaliered between the horizontal branches of silver-green olive trees, composing orchards of webbed design, rich in intimation of wine, olive oil, and lacy-leaf poetry.”

-Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy

la ribollita

Being out of Italy, I love figuring out how I can bring its essence into D-Town. The “cappuccino” I had this morning out of the instant machine at the BMW dealer while I was waiting for my car didn’t quite cut it so I decided to try a more full-on approach: la ribollita.

Ribollita is a traditional soup from Tuscany that was recommended to me by the owner of an “American” bar and cafe one day while I was staying in Florence.¬† He noticed that I was tearing up my bread and putting it into a bowl of tomato soup and told me that I had to try this famous Tuscan stew that involves lots of day-old bread to thicken the consistency.

On his recommendation, I scouted out a nice-looking restaurant and sat down for a glass of vino and a bowl of this hearty soup. I had a a pretty nasty cold that night, but I can tell you that this was without question one of the best meals I have eaten in Italy. I don’t even know if it should be called a soup or even a stew for that matter; it’s so thick it could be eaten with a fork and every bite seems to encompass the Florentine culture and Tuscan countryside. One bowl of this stuff inspired me to go back to my hotel room and start a food diary, dating all the way back to 2009 (I have a great memory for food). I then scoured the internet for recipes and swore that I would make it as soon as I returned home to Denver.

One month later I am here and the days of 80 degree temperatures have finally disappeared and I am sitting in my kitchen while it is 40 degrees and raining out. So the day couldn’t be more perfect to try out my culinary skills. Embarrassingly enough, this is actually the first time in my life I am opening a cookbook and preparing dinner for multiple people. Usually I just throw whatever I have into a pan and and turn it into either a) a stir fry or b) a pasta, so this is a big day for me. After following the recipe of Mario Batali and making various adjustments with the help of a few Italian websites, I think I may have actually come close to bringing Italy home with me.

The ingredients are simple and cheap: potatoes, celery, carrots, leeks, cabbage, kale, onions, garlic, tomato paste, cannellini beans, Italian bread, olive oil, salt, pepper; but when it’s all thrown together it’s pretty delicious. Being back in the States, I am glad I can still capture the heart of Italy in an afternoon, because there really is no better way to celebrate it than through the food.

PS. I debated not inserting a picture because it probably could look more appetizing, but just trust me on this and next time you need a cold-weather meal go for it.