Optional: Dried chilli flakes or freshly ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, rosemary and bay leaf, then leave to cook for 2 minutes. Add the cannellini/borlotti beans and pour over the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook the beans covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until the beans are just tender. Once cooked, discard the garlic clove and bay leaf. Add seasoning to taste, then set aside.
To make the ‘soffritto’ (sautéed base flavouring) for the Ribollita soup, heat the olive oil in a separate heavy-based stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, then cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the onion is soft. Add the potatoes to the soffritto and cook for 2 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes.
Add the silver beet (chard/swiss chard) and savoy cabbage to the soffrito, then transfer the beans and bean cooking liquid to the pot. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Meanwhile stir and check the Ribollita soup occasionally. If the soup is looking too thick, add water.
Once cooked, check that it is seasoned to taste. Add additional salt and dried chilli flakes or freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
Divide bread among serving bowls and ladle over the hot soup. Drizzle over olive oil and perfume the Ribollita soup with a scattering of thyme leaves, then serve – buon appetito.
Note: For a shorter cooking time, cook the dried cannellini/borlotti beans in a pressure cooker for approximately 30 minutes. Alternatively, use canned cannellini or borlotti beans which eliminates step 1. Follow step 2, then drain the beans from their liquid. At step 3, add canned beans and 2 litres of vegetable stock – the same 45 minute cooking time applies.