Beans and Greens is a classic Italian recipe that's as delicious and healthy as it is comforting. You'll want to make this easy regional specialty again and again!
Beans and Greens
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Every area has local specialties. Here in Rochester, we have a large Italian-American population. This is awesome for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the tremendous amount of delicious Italian food that is available. One such dish is something that I've seen a lot of around these parts, but not so much anywhere else in the country; this Greens and Beans recipe.
I've heard some people call these (or a variation of these) Utica Greens but those are not the same thing as Beans and Greens. It’s my understanding that a traditional Utica greens recipe includes things like peppers, bread crumbs and prosciutto (if you’re from Utica, please correct me if I’m wrong) Either way, my family has been making Greens and Beans for years and we love them dearly.
This recipe is pretty darn fantastic for a few reasons. First and foremost they're easy and delicious and full of savory, garlicky flavor. Do I have your attention now? They're also pretty healthy being that the primary ingredients are escarole and beans. And since there's no meat, it's also pretty easy on your wallet (although it would be perfectly delicious with meat added!).
Tips for making Italian greens and Beans
- One item that makes life a lot easier (and takes out a little prep time) is a garlic press. Sure, you can totally chop the garlic, but I say, work smarter, not harder.
- If you need to, boil the escarole in batches. One other gadget that makes it easier to do this without changing the water is a scoop colander, to scoop it directly from the pot into the saute pan when the greens are tender. This is also fantastic for pasta! You can totally make this without it, but it makes life easier.
- Get the oil nice and hot over medium high heat before adding the garlic cloves. You'll reduce heat later when it simmers.
- Don't burn the garlic- it'll add a bitter taste to the oil. Keep a close eye on it, turning often and if it burns, wash the pan and start over.
- Always taste before serving and add salt and pepper if needed. For an xtra kick add even more red pepper flakes!
- This is an excellent appetizer or side dish but it can also be a great main dish. Meatless Monday anyone?
What kind of greens do I use for this?
Traditionally this is made with escarole, which is a mild green that isn't overly bitter like some of its cousins. I've heard of some using collard greens, but I personally don't view that as authentic to this recipe.
What about the beans?
I've always made this with Cannellini Beans but in a pinch Great Northern Beans work as well.
Is beans and greens a good make ahead meal?
Totally! It reheats well and lasts in the fridge all week!
How do you serve beans and greens?
This dish offers a ton of variation options. You can serve it over pasta. You can add meat to it (maybe pancetta or capicola, which you would add at the beginning or chicken or Italian sausage which you would add at the end). You can also add more broth and serve it as an escarole soup.
Can you make greens and beans vegetarian?
You can turn it into a true vegetarian dish but subbing out the chicken stock for veggie broth (maybe consider adding more garlic and crushed red pepper to up the flavor factor in that case). I personally enjoy it on it's own with some nice, crusty, warm bread to sop up all that fantastic sauce.
Can you freeze greens and beans?
This freezes well, so don't hesitate to freeze your leftovers. That's assuming you have leftovers, which we often do not. 🙂
Ingredients for this Beans and Greens recipe:
- Olive oil
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Cannellini beans
- Chicken broth
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Romano cheese
Ingredients to prep ahead:
- Roughly chop escarole
- Peel garlic
- Drain and rinse beans
- Garlic press
- Large saute pan
- Wooden spoon
- Chef's knife
- Cutting board
- Scoop colander
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
Beans and Greens
- 3 bunches fresh escarole, cleaned, trimmed and cut into chunks
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 5-6 garlic cloves, half of them whole, the other half minced or pressed
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (depending how spicy you want it- start with less, you can always add more later)
- 2 14.5 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1-2 14.5 ounce cans chicken broth (if you use two it will be more like a soup)
- Romano cheese, to taste
- Boil the escarole for 5 minutes to par cook. You may need to do it in batches so as not to overload the pot. Drain and set aside. Note: you can also just add the greens raw in later steps but I learned to par cook them first.
- While the escarole is boiling, heat the oil over medium high heat.
- Add 3 cloves of whole garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to taste (the more you add the spicier it will be- I encourage you to at least add a little). Stir and turn the garlic often until it is golden brown (keep an eye on it, if it burns you'll have to clean the pan and start over again).
- Once the garlic cloves have been removed, add the beans, broth and using a garlic press, add the remaining garlic cloves into the pan. Cook for a couple minutes stirring frequently.
- Add the escarole and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 15-20 minutes uncovered, stirring periodically.
- Sprinkle with Romano cheese to taste (this replaces salt) and serve immediately.
If you tried this recipe please comment and rate it 🙂 I love hearing your feedback and answering your questions!
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