Kid-friendly Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

Recipe: Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Let Geo Create/
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
15 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

Thanks to our beloved Chef Lucy in Chicago for inspiring this recipe! "Ribollita"—bread soup from Tuscany! In its simplest form, "ribollita" is a concoction of Tuscan kale, olive oil, white beans, and bread that's allowed to go soggy by soaking in the hot soup: Italian comfort food at its finest and one of my favorite things to eat in Italy. Soups are a fabulous way to incorporate more veggies into a meal, and we're taking that route here with lots of colorful additions. We know how kids (generally) feel about spinach. But rip it into tiny pieces, and it simply melts into the soup! Grate the carrots and zucchini, and they do the same. The theme is RUSTIC—we're tearing a lot of the ingredients, not worrying about perfect size or shape. What's great about this recipe is that the bread and the cheese are equally important to the overall dish and a gateway into a nutritious soup loaded with other really good stuff. Like a torn-up grilled cheese sandwich and vegetable soup in one! This is another recipe where kids will have a lot to prep, which they always love. Have them guess which herb you're using (rosemary) in a creative, fun way. "Mangia bene!" ("Eat well" in Italian).

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • grate :

    to reduce food, like a carrot, to very small shreds or pieces of the same size by rubbing it on a tool with an outside surface that has holes with cutting edges (a grater).

  • pinch :

    to squeeze with two fingers to break off small pieces of a fresh herb or to collect a tiny measurement of a dried herb or spice.

  • tear :

    to pull or rip apart a food, like basil leaves, into pieces instead of cutting with a knife; cutting breaks cell walls more, so herbs can discolor faster.

Equipment Checklist

  • Skillet
  • Blender (or food processor)
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Can opener
  • Measuring spoons
  • Grater
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Colander or strainer


Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 1 14-oz can plum or diced tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 C olive oil + more to taste
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt + more to taste
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 1/2 C veggie broth
  • 1 14-oz can white beans, drained
  • 1 C fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 slices sourdough or whole wheat bread **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free bread)**
  • grated Parmesan, asiago, or mozzarella cheese **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free shredded cheese, like Daiya)**

Food Allergen Substitutions

Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

  • Gluten/Wheat: Use gluten-free/nut-free bread. 
  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free shredded cheese, like Daiya brand.


Italian Zucchini "Ribollita" Bread Soup

pinch + chop + blend

Pinch off the leaves of 1 rosemary sprig, then pinch leaves into teeny tiny bits. Chop 1/2 onion into rustic pieces. Next, add the rosemary bits and chopped onion to a blender with 1 can of tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt and blend until smooth!

grate + sauté

Grate 1 carrot or chop it into very tiny bits. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and sauté the carrots for about 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

chop + tear + simmer

Chop or grate 1 zucchini. Add to the tomato sauce along with 2 1/2 cups veggie broth and 1 can of white beans. Tear 1 cup of spinach leaves into small bits. Then tear 2 slices of bread into rustic 1" pieces. Next, add torn spinach and bread to the skillet and stir until spinach is wilted. Taste and add more salt if needed. Ladle into bowls and top with Rustic Rosemary Olive Oil Croutons (see recipe), grated Parmesan cheese, and extra olive oil!

Surprise Ingredient: Rosemary!

back to recipe
Photo by Studio113/

Hi! I'm Rosemary!

“I'm a fragrant herb with needle-like leaves. I can have blue, pink, purple, or white flowers in the spring and I'm very pretty in gardens. I'm also easy to grow, and garden pests don't care for me too much. My leaves add wonderful flavor to your recipes! You can use them dried or fresh, in breads, roast vegetables or meats, soups, and more, and I taste great in drinks like lemonade. Once you've met me, you'll definitely recognize me from then on!"


  • Rosemary is an herb commonly used to flavor foods. 
  • The Romans brought rosemary to England in the eighth century. This herb originally came from the Mediterranean region—the sea cliffs of Italy, France, Greece, and Spain. Ancient Greeks and Romans used rosemary for medicine and cooking! 
  • The ancient Greeks believed that rosemary was a magical plant that could improve their memory!
  • Rosemary was a token of love and loyalty. During the English Tudor era, rosemary represented fidelity, and brides would traditionally give sprigs of it to the bridegroom. In some places, rosemary sprigs are still used in the wedding ceremony or reception. 
  • In the 16th century, rosemary was often burned in hospitals as a disinfectant to kill germs.

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Rosemary is part of the mint family, which includes basil, lavender, oregano, and many other herbs.
  • Rosemary looks like a tree you've probably seen before! What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? An evergreen? Rosemary IS an evergreen shrub!
  • A rosemary plant can easily grow to five feet tall!
  • Rosemary leaves are the edible part of the plant!
  • The word "rosemary" came from the Latin word "ros marinus," meaning "mist or dew of the sea." 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • A rosemary plant will grow year after year once it's planted. It can grow in the wild, in the garden, or indoors!
  • Rosemary can be used fresh or dried. It adds a woody, herbal flavor to foods. 
  • Rosemary is best when cooked a little before eating it, while other herbs are better when fresh. You can add rosemary to eggs, salad dressings, cakes, drinks, soups, stews, muffins, and other baked goods.


  • In ancient times, people used rosemary as an herbal medicine for stomach aches, toothaches, headaches, and even to prevent balding!
  • Rosemary was also sometimes known as the "herb of memory." The leaves were supposed to quicken the mind and prevent forgetfulness. Students would wear sprigs of rosemary in their hair while taking exams! Recent studies find that rosemary may offer a slight improvement in memory. 
  • Rosemary does not have a ton of vitamins and minerals compared to vegetables, meat, and fruit, BUT it adds so much flavor and aroma to dishes that it's worth adding.


What is Ribollita?

Photo by barbajones/
  • Ribollita is a bread soup that originated in Tuscany. It is rooted in the Tuscan tradition of saving and using every scrap, called "non buttar via niente," or "don't throw anything away." Traditionally, the soup's ingredients are whatever is available—traditionally, this meant beans, kale, other vegetable scraps, and stale bread that the Tuscan people couldn't use for anything else. So they made huge quantities, adding leftovers to the soup and creating a new and tasty pot with each passing day. Perfect on a chilly spring, autumn, or winter day, ribollita is pure Italian comfort food.

Let's Learn About Italy!

Photo by Marina Andrejchenko/
  • Italy became a unified country in 1861, only 150 years ago. It is sometimes called "bel paese" or "beautiful country."  
  • Italians invented the piano and the thermometer! 
  • In ancient Roman mythology, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus founded Rome, Italy's capital city. The myth says the twins were abandoned and then discovered by a she-wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Eventually (and after many exciting adventures), they found themselves at the location of Palatine Hill, where Romulus built "Roma." The Italian wolf became Italy's unofficial national animal. 
  • In the 1930s and 40s, Mussolini, Italy's prime minister, and dictator tried to eliminate all foreign words from the Italian language. How did he do that? He just changed them! For example, in soccer, "goal" became "meta." Disney character names changed, too: Donald Duck became "Paperino;" Mickey Mouse became "Topolino;" and Goofy became "Pippo." Although they're not banned anymore, these words and names have stuck. So now if you go to the Italian Disneyland, called Gardaland Park, you will see Topolino and Pippo! 
  • About 60 million people call Italy home, and it is 116,350 square miles, slightly larger than the US state of Arizona. If you compare that to the United Kingdom, 67 million people live there, and it is about 94,350 square miles. So, the UK is smaller than Italy but has a bigger population! 
  • The Italian flag is green, white, and red. These colors represent hope, faith, and charity.
  • The average Italian eats close to 55 pounds of pasta annually. If you think about how light pasta is, that is a considerable amount! There are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Italy?

  • Kids begin school at 6 years old. They grow up speaking Italian, but they learn English in school, so many become bilingual in Italian and English.
  • The most popular sport for kids is football (soccer). The Italian word for soccer is "calcio," the same word they use for "kick." A favorite of younger kids is "Rody, the bouncing horse," a plastic horse that a small child can hop onto and bounce around the room. Rody was invented in Italy in 1984.  
  • The family ("la famiglia") is a central characteristic of Italian life. Children have great respect for their older relatives. It is traditional to name the first male child after the grandfather and the first female child after the grandmother.
  • If kids live close to school, they can go home and have lunch with their families! Lunch at school might be pasta, meat with vegetables, a sandwich, or a salad with lots of ingredients. Families typically eat dinner later (7 to 8 pm), so kids end up staying up later, too!
  • Between lunch and dinner, kids often enjoy "merenda," which is an afternoon snack that translates to "something that is deserved." It is really a mini-meal that can include both savory and sweet foods. Examples of savory foods are a salami or mortadella sandwich, a slice of rustic bread rubbed with a cut, raw tomato, or "pizza bianca" (white pizza without tomato sauce). Types of sweet foods eaten during merenda are "gelato" (a lower-fat type of ice cream), any kind of cake, or biscotti dipped in warm milk.

Lettuce Joke Around

Why did Rosemary get kicked out of the spice rack? 

She took too much Thyme!

The Yolk's On You

It took days to come up with this rosemary pun.

It was a long thyme cumin!

THYME for a Laugh

Why doesn't bread like warm weather? 

Things get toasty!

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