Kale and bean soup – or ribollita – is a classic Italian peasant dish that is filling and nutritious. I often make a vat of it on Monday to eat throughout the week, occasionally topping up with fresh greens just before serving to give it a bit of crunch. And always, at the first serving, there is wine to drink with it. Italian red is best here – but then, as an Italophile, I would say that. Sangiovese is a favourite because it’s a grape that has a naturally grainy texture, just like the beans. Another central Italian red that works well is montepulciano d’abruzzo, which has plenty of guts and, like the food, is very robust. Beyond Italy, look for a wine that shares some of these peasant qualities – a dark red from Portugal’s Douro or Dao, perhaps, a carmenère from Chile, a red blend from Lebanon or a gruff red from eastern Europe. An alternative to the heavier reds is to find a wine that is refreshing and will cut across the heaviness of the beans – a beaujolais, say, or a marcillac from France. Note that the Italian reds, with their reviving freshness, will do both.



Domaine de Montval Syrah 2013 France, 13% (£9.99, Majestic).

A rich, smoky syrah that seems to smell of black olives and dried thyme.

Toscana Rosso NV Italy, 13% (£4.49, Aldi).

A classic tumbler red made with chianti grape sangiovese, and bolstered with a bit of merlot and cabernet sauvignon to give it more guts.

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2013 France, 13.5% (around £7.49, Co-op).

A very friendly wine from the Rhone environs. The 2013 vintage is a bit lighter than usual, but it’s still juicy and textured

Vetriano Sangiovese di Puglia 2012 Italy, 12.5% (£6.55, Haynes, Hanson & Clark).

An astonishingly good budget sangiovese. This is cherry-like and bright – snap it up.

Kale and bean soup recipe

borlotti beans 400g tin, rinsed and drained

onions 2, diced

carrots 3, diced

celery 3 stalks, diced

fennel 1 bulb, diced

garlic 3 cloves, 2 crushed and 1 whole

olive oil

chopped tomatoes 400g tin

kale 200g, chopped

chard 200g, chopped

to serve

sourdough bread toasted

parmesan or vegetarian alternative flat-leaf parsley a bunch, chopped

step 1

Fry the onions, carrots, celery, fennel and the crushed garlic in 3 tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, flameproof casserole dish, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes until soft.

step 2

Put a third of the beans in a bowl with approximately 200ml water and whizz to a paste using a hand blender. Add the paste, the remaining whole beans and the tomatoes to the pot. Fill the empty tomato can with water a couple of times and pour into the pot.

step 3

Season, then simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the kale and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes until tender. A few minutes before serving, stir in the chopped chard. Serve in bowls, topped with a slice of sourdough toast rubbed with the whole garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil, a bowl of grated cheese on the side and the chopped parsley to sprinkle over.


This feature was published in November 2014

Photographs: Sam Stowell

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