Polentina Alla Toscana


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

One Good Dish

By David Tanis

Published 2013

  • About

Some soups, once encountered, live on in both memory and a cook’s personal repertoire. This very traditional Tuscan soup impressed me when I first encountered it in Florence. I loved the way a little polenta could be used to thicken, ever so slightly, a vegetable soup. There was something special too about the deep, dark kale and fruity olive oil that were added to the bowl. My version is faithful to the original, so good that there was no need to embroider.


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more (optional) for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • ½ pound carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed and cut into ½-inch squares
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup polenta
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • ½ pound kale, preferably Tuscan
  • ½ teaspoon grated or finely chopped garlic
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Leaves from 1 rosemary sprig


In a heavy pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and fennel, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or so, until barely softened. Add the leek and bay leaf and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the polenta, stirring to distribute it, and raise the heat to high. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and allow the soup to simmer for about an hour; the broth should be just slightly thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop the kale. Drain in a colander but do not dry. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the greens, stirring as they begin to wilt. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes more. Set aside.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the kale. Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary (finely chop it at the last minute), and drizzle with more olive oil if desired.