The recipe for the soup was given to me by my very good friend and outstanding chef Joe Romanowski, who most recently owned Bay Avenue Trattoria in Highlands with his beautiful wife Maggie. Joe was a master chef who had a major influence on the careers of many chefs who work at the Jersey Shore.

Unfortunately after losing his restaurant in Hurricane Sandy, and a battle with cancer, Joe passed away a few years ago. His talents, friendship, and camaraderie will be missed. In his honor, The Joe Romanowski Culinary Education Scholarship Fund was founded and was also the reason for our second cook-off between Dennis Malloy and myself, with a portion of the proceeds going support this great scholarship. You can help too by donating at:

Joe Romanowski CESF

PO Box 471

West Long Branch, NJ 07764

I was so happy to be part of this great event. Dennis is no easy opponent, his dishes were amazing. He beat me in the entree category, but I was able to pull off the overall win.

With the snow sticking around from last weekend, and winter in full force, I figured there's no better time to take a trip down memory lane and share this great soup recipe with you. Make a big batch of it for your friends and family this weekend and warm them up inside and out!

Kira Buxton - Townsquare Media
Kira Buxton - Townsquare Media

Here's my award-winning recipe for the Ribollita Soup:

Ribollita Soup

6 cups cannellini beans (washed & drained)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups diced zucchini

1 1/2 cups diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced pancetta (about a 1/4 lb)

3 Tb minced garlic

1/2 head savoy cabbage (washed & cut into 1 inch chunks)

2 cups crushed Italian tomatoes with juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

2 cups spinach leaves

10 cups chicken broth

4 cups cubed day old bread (the crustier the better)

2 lb piece of parmigiano rind or 1 cup grated romano

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

Over medium flame, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add all the hard vegetables, garlic and pancetta. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the cabbage tomatoes, basil and spinach. Add the chicken broth and a good pinch of red pepper flakes, simmer for 20 minutes. Add the beans, bread, cheese rinds. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Ladle into bowls, dust with romano cheese and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.