Scarola & Beans, Escarole & Beans no matter what you call it this humble soup has had a prominent place on every Italian American stove throughout the generations. Escarole & Bean soup was a nutritious and inexpensive way to feed a family when stretching the food budget was absolutely essential. It is a wonderful make ahead meal that can be served for dinner along with a nicely toasted piece of country bread, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.
Traditionally made with Cannellini Beans, you can use any medium sized white bean, Great Northern Beans are an excellent choice. Canned beans are always an option when time is not on your side, but there is nothing like the flavor and texture of soaked dried beans once cooked. This takes a little preplanning, but having an assortment of dried beans in the pantry is half the battle. Any cooked beans that you do not need can be packaged and frozen for soups or salads at another time.
The most difficult part of this recipe is washing the escarole to be certain it is free from dirt or sandy particles. Generally I fill the clean kitchen sink with cold water and immerse the escarole leaves to help soak any particles away from the crevices in the leaves. Once the sink has been drained, simply rinse the leaves while in a colander and shake off any excess water.
Escarole & Bean Soup warms the soul, especially on a cold winter’s night after a long day.
Cannellini and Great Northern Beans are a high protein, high fiber food with considerable health benefits and provide an excellent alternative to meat. For some additional La Bella Sorella recipes featuring beans simply click on the links below.
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- 3 cups of dry Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, covered with 3 inches of cold water and soaked overnight OR 4 - 15½ ounce cans of Cannellini or Great Northern Beans
- 4 fresh or 2 dry bay leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 3 heads of fresh escarole
- 8 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chicken or Vegetable stock
- Crushed red pepper
- Country bread toasted, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with extravirgin olive oil
- Drain and rinse the soaked beans, cover them with 3 inches of water. Add the bay leaves, two garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil to the pot and place over medium high heat until the beans come to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pot and cook until tender; the time varies but it should be between 35 and 50 minutes, season with salt and set aside.
- If you are using canned beans, drain well and rinse will in a colander - set aside.
- Have a very large container or clean kitchen sink filled with cool water. Separate the leaves from the escarole heads, trimming at the root and submerge them into the cool water, shaking them a bit to dislodge any dirt or sand. Allow the leaves to sit for a bit, then drain the sink and remove the escarole to a large colander. Rinse well under cool water to be sure that no particles remain, drain yet the escarole does not need to be perfectly dry. Roughly chop the leaves into 4 or more slices across the width.
- Add the ⅓ cup of olive oil to a large heavy duty pot and place the pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the minced garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add the escarole, stirring well to coat the leaves with the oil and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook the escarole down while stirring the pot regularly until the escarole was wilted down in size and is cooked.
- Loosely drain the beans using a slotted spoon, transferring them to the pot with the escarole - do not discard the bean cooking liquid. Add the bean cooking liquid to the pot until the beans & escarole are covered by about 1 inch of liquid. You may supplement this with stock or use a combination of the bean cooking liquid and stock.
- If you are using the canned beans, add them now along with enough stock so as the mixture is covered by 1 inch of the stock. You can use half stock and half water if you like.
- Bring the soup to a gentle boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt & pepper if desired. Transfer the soup to warm bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve with toasted bread slice rubbed with garlic and a bit of olive oil. Crushed red pepper may be passed at the table.
- Grated Parmigiano can also be added as a garnish when not using crushed red pepper.