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Escarole and Beans Main Photo Plated.

Greens and Beans

Greens and Beans is a humble, but indisputable, quintessential Italian American side dish that is beloved by many. This hearty yet healthy classic features humble ingredients that make a big impact. It traditionally pairs lightly bitter escarole greens with creamy cannellini beans to yield a dish that’s both nutritious and filling, while also being super flavorful and versatile.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 1/4 cups dried white cannellini beans plus cooking liquid or 1 ¼ pounds cooked cannellini beans (See NOTE below about beans below.)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced or chopped garlic
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 large head escarole, cored, chopped into bite-sized pieces, rinsed of all dirt and drained of all liquid (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • chicken or vegetable broth, as needed
  • pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling over final dish


  • Prep all ingredients according to specifications above, including cooking the beans.
  • Make the beans: Rinse the cannellini beans, then place them in a large bowl covered with four times the amount of water and let them soak for several hours or overnight. After soaking, drain the beans, then boil them in unsalted water until soft. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE BEAN COOKING LIQUID as it is an important part of this recipe. (See NOTE about beans below.)
  • Combine the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper in a large skillet and heat on medium-low. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic starts to brown, then increase the heat to medium-high and add the escarole.
  • Cover the pan and let the greens cook until tender (about 5-7 minutes).
  • Once the greens are tender, add the beans and approximately 1 ½ cups bean cooking liquid, stock or broth. (See NOTE about beans below.)
  • Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about five minutes to let all of the flavors combine and allow the liquid to reduce a bit.
  • Fold in the pecorino cheese, drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil and serve the greens and beans warm in a shallow pool of their sauce with some crusty, rustic bread. Buon Appetito!


  • If you use canned beans to make this dish, the only wild card is to whether or not to use the starchy liquid that comes with the canned beans. This is a personal choice, but here is my advice: if you buy no- or low-sodium high quality (preferably organic) canned beans, then it is probably okay to use the bean liquid. Otherwise, you may end up with an overly salty, briny and strange tasting liquid in your dish. If you choose not to use the canned bean liquid and have homemade chicken stock available, the collagen in the stock will create texture in the final dish. Otherwise, just use some vegetable or chicken broth as the liquid in this recipe.
  • An alternative to soaking the beans for several hours is to bring the beans to a boil in a large pot of unsalted water, then turn off the heat and let them sit, covered, for one hour. At this point, it will be as if they were soaked for several hours.
  • Discard this soaking water, then proceed as if they had been soaked overnight by cooking them in a new pot of unsalted water until tender.
  • The beans can be cooked in advance and held, covered, in the refrigerator for two to three days until you are ready to use them.
  • To save time when cooking, prep the escarole in advance and store it in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator for up to one day.
  • The amount of bean cooking liquid, stock or broth used can be increased or decreased depending on how soupy or dry you would like the final dish to be.
  • Be sure to use a pan large enough to hold all of the greens or work in batches if necessary.
  • The dish gets better as it sits, so it is a great option to make ahead of time.
  • This dish freezes really well! Make a large batch, portion it into containers and freeze for up to one month to enjoy down the road.
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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