Escarole and Beans / Minestra de Scarola e Fagioli

Sometimes in our busy lives we want a quick meal but we still want it to be healthy, delicious and if it is economical so much the better. Italians have been cooking a simple peasant dish that I and so many others love, Minestra de Scarola e Fagioli or better known to us as escarole and beans. Minestra is a medium to thick and hearty soup that usually contains vegetables. This dish can also be made into a Zuppa or soup by simply adding more broth.

Many families have their version of this recipe, sometimes passed down from generation to generation. Changes have been made with our changing times. Peasants used to make this from wild greens foraged from their fields, using water as the liquid, along with dried beans. Today we can go to our market or garden for escarole and use canned beans and broth for convenience. You can make a pot of beans from scratch for this dish but it really isn’t necessary. As I said, sometimes you want something quick to prepare. A bowl of escarole and beans along with a crusty piece of bread makes a satisfying meal.

Escarole and Beans

Escarole and Beans / Minestra de Scarola e Fagioli

  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 slices of pancetta, bacon, or prosciutto, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c. white wine (optional)
  • 1 can chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 15 oz. cans cannellini beans
  • 1 head of washed escarole, cut into 2 -3 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. or more crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 handful pecorino romano or parmesan cheese plus extra to sprinkle
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over each bowl

In a dutch oven or other large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the pancetta until it has rendered its fat, then remove from pot and save. Add the spices to the oil and stir for minute. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until soft but not brown. Add wine to pot and stir up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the broth to the pan and two of the cans of beans. Add the reserved pancetta back to the pot.

Let the beans cook until they start to break and thicken the liquid. At this point add the escarole. This will have to be done a little at a time, stirring and adding more as the greens wilt. Add the remaining can of beans and let simmer 10 to 15 minutes until the escarole is tender but not mushy.  If the mixture becomes too dry, just add water.

Taste for seasoning and then add a large handful of cheese. 

Plate into bowls, sprinkle with additional cheese to taste, and drizzle your best extra virgin olive over the top.

This is how I make this wonderful hearty dish. My husband’s mother made her broth from ham hocks. Her’s was a brothy soup of escarole and beans, with the hocks served on the side. Many people sauté the escarole in olive oil and then add the other ingredients. Others make this an even heartier meal by adding sausage. By eliminating the meat and using vegetable broth, this is a wonderful vegetarian dish.

However you make this dish, I hope that you will enjoy it. Buon Appetito!


About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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76 Responses to Escarole and Beans / Minestra de Scarola e Fagioli

  1. lulu says:

    If you are having this for dinner tonight, can you wait until we get there to eat? This sounds a perfect way to end the day. I’ll bring the cornbread!

  2. kbosin says:

    Get outta here. Guess what I made for supper last night? Almost exactly like your recipe but with black beans and no wine (drank it instead). Absolutely delicious!

  3. ceciliag says:

    Is escarole like a silverbeet or a chard? a cold weather green. this looks really good i would like to try it! c

  4. Monique says:

    Love the beans and smokey pan or bacon..soups like these are hearty ..comfort foods.
    I love the way Italians cook.

  5. I can see me making this over winter with beans and greens from the garden. I can’t wait !

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claire, Isn’t it nice that you can make this dish from your lovely garden. I hope you will enjoy the meal.

      • I know, it is a real pleasure, my escarole isn’t anywhere near ready yet, but I have spinach and chard to use as substitutes. I’ve made a lovely soup from borlotti beans and endive before now, so this will be similar but different 🙂 And I’m sure I’ll enjoy this recipe!

      • Karen says:

        I know that whatever you use it will be good with very fresh greens. Similar but different…I say that all the time.

  6. Leo Cotnoir says:

    You posted this just as I was looking for something to do with some mustard greens I bought at a local farmers’ market. I will have to try it. Do you have any suggestions for alternative beans? I have lots of kidney beans.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Leo, I think kidney beans would be good. In Italy people often use a red bean instead of white in their recipes. I think recipes are just inspiration, creativity is using what we have and making it our own. Let me know how the dish turns out with your ingredients.

  7. Love it. We have a similar dish, call it beans and greens.

  8. ChgoJohn says:

    This looks absolutely delicious! Funny thing. My family never cooked scarola. You name the green and it was cooked and served but not this one. Well, those days are gone. Armed with this recipe, I’m going to bring escarole back to the Bartolinis! Well, that might be aiming a bit high but I will make it for Zia during my next visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, Isn’t it funny how we can love vegetables but there is one we never cook or eat. I know with your skill and history of Italian food that you don’t really need my recipe but I am flattered that you want to make it for yourself and Zia.

  9. Kristy says:

    This looks like the perfect soup for this time of year. Soup and a crusty piece of bread. Those words just make me hungry. 🙂

  10. lvaletutto says:

    I love escarole and beans! I’ll be making this dish this week! Thanks for the inspiration. I really do like the taste of this soup with soaked beans though so it will take me a day or two till I get to making it!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura, I made a large pot of beans for another recipe. If you have the time, by all means make your beans ahead of time. What is nice about this recipe is that the flavor remains the same if you use canned beans. That makes it nice for a busy day and a last minute meal.

      • lvaletutto says:

        Beans are done soaking and I just made a vegetarian version of this soup with escarole from our garden for dinner! It came out great! I cooked it at a slow simmer that lasted half the day so the beans came out very soft. Thanks for the inspiration on dinner tonight! Lecker!

      • Karen says:

        Hi Laura, Thank you for letting me know that you are making the escarole and beans for dinner. It’s nice knowing I was the inspiration. Enjoy.

  11. Yummy! You know that this is totally my sort of food!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your comment. I think this is a dish that most people will enjoy. Comforting, delicious, and costs so little…especially if you use a slice of bacon instead of pancetta. It will be great without adding meat, as a matter of fact, and will cost even less and will feed a whole family. So enjoy!

  12. This looks excellent! Comfort food at its best!

  13. Mmmm! This reminds me of an Italian, and more sophisticated, version of what I would call soup beans. Not sure if I can find escarole where I live, but I will look!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Julie, Thank you for your lovely comment. It really isn’t a sophisticated dish but truly a peasant dish. If you can’t find escarole, use a green that you like and that is available. You could always use spinach or romaine but do not cook it. Just add it right before you serve it and let it wilt.

  14. dhagburg says:

    Love this! Would be great with spinach also. I’m going to give it a whirl with some red pepper flakes too! Thanks, Dave

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dave, Thank you for visiting my blog and your nice compliment. It would be very good with spinach…just add it right before serving. I always add crushed red pepper with the other dried herbs at the beginning of the recipe to enhance their flavor. Use as much or as little as you like.

  15. Tandy says:

    fantastico! I love anything Italian 🙂

  16. Sue says:

    Ha-Dave stole my idea–I thought that some fresh spinach (growing in my cold frame!) would be a great addition/substitute for the escarole. This looks like just the ticket for a drizzly November day! Perfect…..thank you!

  17. Joanne says:

    I LOVE this! My grandma always used to make it with mini meatballs, but this version sounds super delicious.

  18. Pingback: Beans and Greens, Italian Style « Dinner at Leo's

  19. Judy says:

    I have fallen in love with cannellini beans and their creamy texture. I adore a sprinkle of kale in bean soups, but now will have to try escarole.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Judy, I’m with you. I love the creamy texture of cannellini beans. That’s why I let some start to breakup before I put the rest of the beans in the pot.

  20. Love this stick to your ribs kind of dish! When the weather turns cold this is the kind of food I crave.

  21. What a beautiful blog! This soup looks fantastic and I think I’m about ready to get up out of the office and take a tour based on your great photos and food stops.

  22. Bonnie says:

    This looks so hearty and delicious. I am a soup person so I am excited to try your recipe.

  23. Alyson says:

    This looks tasty! I’m always on the look out for new soup recipes. Thanks for sharing.

  24. calamityjennie says:

    This looks wonderful, I love cannellini beans – especially brined! I have some in the freezer that would work well in this soup. Great suggestion.

  25. Charles says:

    Beans in any form are so good – they’re so often forgotten by people seeking a fast meal and they can really be so delicious. Your dish, a big hunk of bread – it may well be peasant food, but serve me some up and call me a peasant… It’s good, warming, hearty fare.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charles, Thanks for the comment. This recipe certainly fits into your idea of cooking affordable meals. Beans are so overlooked when planning a meal. They are versatile, healthy and inexpensive to prepare. Best of all they are delicious.

  26. rsmacaalay says:

    That looks fantastic, very flavourful dish

  27. This sounds like a perfect middle of the week meal when your energy is down and need a comforting easy meal
    Thank you for sharing this Karen

  28. annascafe says:

    Hey this looks delicious, I love a good soup especially with beans to add that creamy luxury. I might have to make this on the weekend…Thanks for the recipe!

  29. Kate Abbott says:

    I love this recipe and I love your blog and all the amazing pictures too!

  30. Lisa says:

    I’m so glad I discovered your blog too, gorgeous recipes! This soup brings back memories of some Italian friends who called it ‘Scrole and Beans’ lol Your version looks so hearty, comforting and soul warming. I have to make it – so I’m bookmarking it!

  31. this is such a good soup–I forget about cooking with escarole. adds a compelling bitterly delicious edge to this hearty fare.

  32. It sounds like a very comforting meal. Just what we need on these cold days.
    Have a nice weekend Karen 🙂

  33. cabinet stew says:

    mmmmmmm… yummmm. I think if I leave out the bacon (sadly) and serve the sausage on the side (yay) I could make both my husband (meat guy) and my mother (vegetarian) happy!!
    Great recipe!

  34. Emilie says:

    Looking forward to trying this. I’m always looking for new ways to use beans! I’ll let you know how it works with turkey bacon (the “bacon” of choice for those of us who don’t eat pork).


  35. Paul Pagley says:

    My Mother made greens & beans all the time.Mom added ham hocks, my Dad loved them but never could get the hang of them,but love the geens to this day

    • Karen says:

      Hi Paul, My mother in law always cooked her beans and greens with ham hocks as well. They do add a lot of flavor to the broth they are cooked in. Thank you for stopping by for a visit.

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