Anna Jones’ recipes for no-waste ribollita and herb oil | The Modern Cook (2024)

I’m heartened to say that the conversation around what we throw away has become a regular one, both in the press and in kitchens up and down the country.

While there is a place for recipes using carrot tops to make pesto, chickpea water for meringues and other cheffy ideas, the real difference when it comes to food waste is using every bit of what we buy: milk, bread, veg. With this in mind, I wanted to share some more flexible thoughts that use some of the most thrown away ingredients.

So here’s a recipe that uses everyday ingredients to make a proper, wholesome meal out of very little, and another for a quick herb oil that savours the flavours from leaves past their best.

Leftover herb and chilli oil

A brilliant way to use up any half-used bunches of herbs in your fridge: use a single herb or mix a couple of bunches. Once made, the oil can sit in the fridge for a few weeks and used on stews, soups or pasta – basically everything I want to eat in autumn.

Prep 10 min
Cook 5 min
Makes about 200ml

180ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried chilli flakes or 1 finely chopped fresh red chilli
1 large bunch soft herbs (basil, parsley, mint, dill) or 1 bunch woody herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage)

Warm two tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saucepan, add the chilli, take off the heat and leave to cool.

If you are using woody herbs, strip the leaves from the stalks (if you have very soft thyme, you might not need to do this). If you are using soft herbs, you can use the stalks, so no need to pick the leaves.

In a food processor or blender, blitz a bunch of soft herbs or half a bunch of hardy herbs with 150ml olive oil. Add the chilli oil and blitz again. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a month.

No-waste ribollita

Ribollita is my ultimate recipe for clearing the fridge. I have written the recipe to be flexible, so you can use up what ever you have. I usually have some greens, a starchy potato or squash, a carrot or two and the end of a bunch of herbs and some stale bread, and that’s what this Tuscan soup needs.

It is a forgiving soup – it might not end up as a totally traditional ribollita, but you’ll have used up everything in your fridge, and that is up there with the most satisfying things you can do.

Ribollita uses one of my favourite flavour-packed things that is usually wasted: parmesan rind, which lends its umami flavour to the soup. It is worth noting that most parmesan is not vegetarian, so do check.

Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 6

Olive oil
2 onions, peeled, or 2 leeks; washed and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
6 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped, yellow leaves reserved
A few sprigs rosemary or thyme, roughly chopped
4 fresh tomatoes or 1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
300g root veg (potato, sweet potato, parsnip or squash), peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
1 whole parmesan rind (optional; I use a vegetarian parmesan-style cheese)
1 × 400g tin white beans or chickpeas (or 250g home-cooked beans, liquid reserved)
3 big handfuls greens, such as rainbow chard, spinach, cavolo nero (about 400g), leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 litres hot vegetable stock
4 slices good-quality stale bread
Good extra-virgin olive oil
, to finish

Heat a little oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions or leeks, garlic, carrot, celery and picked herbs over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until soft, sweet and slightly caramelised.

Add the tomatoes, root veg and parmesan rind, if using, squashing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon – it will look a bit dry, but don’t worry, it is meant to. Cook on a low heat, stirring from time to time, for 15 minutes, until the tomato liquid has been almost completely absorbed and the vegetables look quite dry.

Add the beans – tin juices and all – cavolo nero and stock, bring to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and lay the slices of bread on top of the soup, like a lid. Generously drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and leave to sit for 10 minutes or so.

Stir to combine – the soup should be thick, almost stewy and deeply delicious – then season with salt, pepper, celery leaves and more extra-virgin olive oil. Ladle into bowls and serve. The soup will thicken as it cools, so if you have leftovers, add more hot stock or water and reheat gently.

Anna Jones’ recipes for no-waste ribollita and herb oil | The Modern Cook (2024)
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