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A classic Italian comfort-food recipe, updated for the modern family.

The end of summer – sigh. Along with the change in season comes that inevitable hustle to get back on a schedule, which can often feel like juggling kittens.

Before succumbing to a rush-rush lifestyle, take a few minutes to stash this recipe for your back-to-school menu. It’s a perfect choice on a time-stretched weeknight.

When you’re in charge of feeding a family, pulling dinner out of a hat – or in this case, the pantry – can feel like pure magic. Putting a home-cooked meal on the table at the end of the day ranks as one of the most satisfying tricks ever.

Case in point: this hearty, Italian-style stew. It tastes like something that might have simmered all day long on the stovetop. But in reality, it’s a one-pan meal that takes 30 minutes to prepare, from start to finish.

We’re talking less than 10 minutes of hands-on prep – most of which involves chopping onions and garlic and opening a few key staples, like jarred pasta sauce and canned white cannellini beans.

Everything simmers together for about 15 minutes, melding into a deeply savory dish with layers of flavor.

What’s better than that?

Ribollita is simple Italian comfort food. It’s a thick vegetable soup from Tuscany, a dish that pretty much serves as the poster child for rustic farmhouse cooking.

Ribollita (which means reboiled in Italian) is often made on Friday fasting days and reheated for meals days (and days) later. In other words, it’s a clever use of leftovers.

The classic ribollita is based on sturdy, rib-sticking starches, stretching the most humble ingredients and wasting nothing.

Think creamy beans, potatoes and/or stale bread, tossed in the pot with vegetables like cabbage, kale and tomatoes.

My new-school take on this traditional dish includes chicken sausage for a lean and tasty protein that yields a delicious one-bowl-and-done dinner.

Karen Tedesco is a recipe developer, food stylist and photographer living in Maplewood. For seasonal recipes and more, visit her website,

Chicken Ribollita

Serves 4 to 6

This stew has a hearty, satisfying texture, which will thicken slightly as it cools. If you prefer more of a soupy dish, just stir in a bit more water or stock to taste.


  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs (see note)

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)

  • 1 pound uncooked chicken sausage, sliced into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red chili

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 cans (15-ounce) of cannellini beans, drained

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or water

  • 2 cups jarred pasta sauce

  • 2 cups baby spinach or kale greens

  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Note: To make fresh breadcrumbs, toast 4 slices of crusty bread. Cut into chunks (you can leave the crusts on) and pulse in a mini food processor to make coarse crumbs.


1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are crisp and golden brown. Set aside.

2. Put the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet that has a lid. Place over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. 

3. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the sausage. Cook the sausage until it begins to brown, stirring it around the pan so it doesn’t stick.

4. Stir in the garlic, rosemary, chili and salt to taste. Cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the beans, stock and pasta sauce and bring to a simmer.

5. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and simmer 5 more minutes to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach.

6. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and cheese over the top and serve.


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