Italian Beans and Greens Recipe (Escarole) is a classic Italian recipe. It is delicious vegetarian meal that is both healthy and comforting. It all come together in one pan and takes 20 minutes to make!
White beans and leafy greens (escarole) is a chunky, stew-like dish which needs nothing more than homemade Italian bread to soak up the yummy sauce, or as we say in Italian, "fare la scarpetta".
This is a simple and humble dish that is full of flavor and nutrition! It is comforting, satisfying, and healthy!
Why I love Italian Beans and Greens Recipe (Escarole)
This Italian greens and beans recipe is one you will find at Italian restaurants everywhere as a side dish, but it works well as a vegetarian main course served with crusty bread. It is a hearty dish that you can feel good about eating.
This recipe results in a stew-like consistency. If you prefer to make escarole and bean soup, simply add more broth.
You can even add bone broth or homemade chicken stock. If you ever make roast chicken that's the best time to make your own broth!
The creamy cannellini beans melt in your mouth as the complement the other delicious flavors. You will also love this recipe: Warm White Bean Salad Arugula Mozzarella.
With a few simple ingredients such as canned beans, fresh leafy greens, chicken or veggie broth, good olive oil, and fresh garlic you can make this delicious recipe that is a classic Italian staple.
- Cannellini beans
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Cloves of Garlic
- Broth (vegetable broth or chicken broth)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated Parmigiano cheese (parmesan cheese)
See recipe card for quantities.
What is escarole?
According to Healthline, this green, flat-leaf vegetable is part of the chicory family. As you can see, it has broad leaves with jagged edges.
As a variety of endive, it grows in heads with a heart of pale yellow/white leaves, surrounded by larger ones with deep green color.
What does escarole taste like?
Its raw state is mildly bitter, with a flavor similar to curly endive or chicory. The outer leaves have a more bitter taste than the inner ones. As it cooks, the escarole loses its bitterness and becomes pleasantly mild tasting.
You will love the mild taste in this recipe!
Buying and storing escarole
Often, escarole will be labeled as just “chicory” in the grocery store. It’s much less common in North American cooking than it is in Italy but you should still be able to find it relatively easily at any “good” store or market.
It’s also an easy green to grow yourself if you have a garden.
You may be most familiar with it for its role in Italian wedding soup. It’s traditionally the greens used in that recipe.
What to look for when buying escarole:
- Look for green leaves that are crisp and fresh looking;
- Absence of blemished leaves or yellow spots;
- Base, and leaves should be firm.
- Refrigerate up to 4 days, wrapped in damp paper towels.
How to make Italian Beans and Greens Recipe (Escarole)
With a few simple steps you can have this meal or side dish on the table in 20 minutes time!
First, you will need to clean the escarole (similar to cleaning leaf lettuce).
How to clean escarole
To clean escarole or chicory- simply chop off the bottom root then cut the leaves roughly. Soak in cold water and either use a salad spinner or a large kitchen towel to dry.
Cut out the hard steam in the middle of the leaf and discard. Chop escarole and set aside until ready to use.
Cook the beans and greens
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add the chopped escarole and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt.
Add the chicken broth, beans, and Parmesan cheese chunk. Cover and simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add grated parmigiano cheese and serve with crusty bread.
Here are a some ideas for substituting the main ingredients for ones you have on hand. This is a nutritious meal you are sure to love with any of these substitutions.
Italian white beans (cannellini)
Instead of cannellini beans you can use any soft white bean such a great northern beans. I would not recommend black beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans.
If you can't find a bunch of escarole, also known as chicory, you can use:
- collard greens
- swiss chard
- romaine lettuce
- broccoli rabe
You can use a a mix of your favorite greens as well. If you grow hearty lettuce in your garden this is the perfect Italian recipe for it!
- Spicy - add chili flakes while cooking to imbue heat into the dish.
- Meat - try adding Italian sausage to this recipe to add extra protein. You can even sprinkle some fried bacon on top.
- Bread crumbs- toast some bread crumbs and add them as a garnish.
What to serve with Italian Beans and Greens Recipe (Escarole)
This Italian beans and green soup is great to serve with any kind of homemade bread: Fast Italian No Knead Ciabatta Bread, Italian Focaccia with Apples and Cheese, Fast Italian No Knead Ciabatta Bread, or Easy Soft Italian No Knead Bread.
It pairs well with Crispy Baked Cod with Panko Recipe, or Best Italian Stuffed Chicken Thighs (Involtini di Pollo).
More delicious Italian recipes:
- Shredded Zucchini and Cheese Pasta (easy)
- Easy Italian Sausage and Peppers Skillet Recipe
- Lobster Ravioli Sauce with Brown Butter
When cooking you can adjust by adding more olive oil or butter to contrast, and by using little squeeze of lemon juice will counter bitterness. For this recipe-squeeze a little bit of fresh lemon juice into the pot of escarole and beans right at the end of cooking. Acids like lemon juice (vinegar can also be used) help counter the bitter flavor of the greens. It’s a trick you can use for any bitter green!
To clean, cut off the root end of the escarole head and separate the leaves. Place them in a large bowl of water, swish them around for a minute or two, and then drain. Heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a large soup pot.
- I recommend removing the inner stem as it can a more bitter taste and can remain tough in texture. You can try it both ways and see which you like best!
- Add a chunk of parmigiano cheese to enhance the flavor of the broth.
A simple, comforting dish that comes together with little effort. This is a great dish for any time of year!
More delicious recipes:
- Authentic Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe
- Antipasto Pasta Salad (with Italian Dressing)
- Authentic Italian Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe
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- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 pound escarole, chopped
- 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan (chunk)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated parmigiano cheese for serving
Crusty bread for serving
- Prepare escarole: chop off the bottom root then cut the leaves roughly. Soak in cold water and either use a salad spinner or a large kitchen towel to dry. Cut out the hard steam in the middle of the leaf and discard. Chop escarole and set aside until ready to use.
- Drain bean liquid and rinse beans. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
- Add the escarole and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the chicken broth, beans, remaining olive oil, and parmigiano cheese chunk. Cover and simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add grated parmigiano cheese and serve with crusty bread.
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 10-12 minutes
- Category: Savory
- Method: Italian
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Italian side dish, vegetarian, main meal, beans, greens, paemigiano, Italian beans, escarole