With soup season in full swing, we’ve got several bowlfuls in our rotation, but the one we keep coming back to again and again? The Italian classic escarole and beans. This soup is the perfect blend of leafy greens and white beans like cannellini or navy cooked in broth until tender. It’s not only super filling, the mildly bitter escarole balances well with buttery white beans. Plus, these ingredients are brimming with nutrients — which is another reason we love enjoying a hearty helping or two of this soup. While making escarole and beans does take some planning, it pays off as it’s truly comfort in a bowl. Keep reading to learn more about this soup and get a simple escarole and beans recipe!
How escarole and bean soup is made
This soup consists of white beans, escarole, seasonings, broth and other vegetables. Dry beans are often used in this dish as they’re inexpensive and can withstand the slow cooking method without becoming mushy. This requires soaking the beans for several hours or overnight to rehydrate them before cooking. Still, it’s worth the time to make an escarole and bean soup as it’s both delicious and nutritious.
The benefits of eating escarole and beans
Escarole and beans not only deliver on comfort, they each provide a nice dose of essential nutrients. One cup of plain boiled escarole contains 23 calories, 69 milligrams of calcium and 5 milligrams of vitamin C. Since it’s a rich source of vitamin C and calcium, escarole may aid tissue growth and repair along with reduce risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to weaken. Other nutrients in escarole include tannins, flavonoids and unsaturated fatty acids — giving the leafy green added anti-inflammatory benefits.
When it comes white beans like navy beans, 1 cup of the cooked legume offers 140 calories, 8 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber. Thanks to its high protein and fiber content, navy beans can help kickstart weight loss by keeping you feeling fuller longer. Additionally, protein has been shown to lessen muscle loss because it converts into muscle-building amino acids once absorbed into the body. Also, soluble fiber (the kind found in beans) promotes healthy cholesterol as it clings onto the small intestine and prevents harmful cholesterol particles from entering into the bloodstream. Overall, these ingredients work together to create a rich and nourishing soup.
2 keys to perfectly cooked escarole and beans
Regardless of the specific escarole and beans recipe you’re using, try these two tips to help the soup ingredients cook to tender perfection.
1. Sprinkle in baking soda when cooking the beans.
Baking soda is the surprise ingredient worth including in the soup as its pH allows it to break down the molecules within the beans so they cook faster. Try stirring in 1 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of beans just before simmering them in the pot. (Click through to learn how to make beans less gassy and why baking soda helps reduce flatulence from beans.)
2. Add the escarole at the right time.
Since escarole’s leaves aren’t overly thick, they don’t require a lengthy cooking time. “One essential tip for slow-cooking this dish is to add the escarole toward the end of the cooking process, as this hearty green wilts reasonably quickly, and you want it to retain some of its texture and vibrant color,” says Jessica Randhawa, owner and head chef at The Forked Spoon. Escarole usually takes about 5 minutes to soften, so avoid adding it too soon for cooked greens that aren’t slimy and maintain their nutritional value.
A mouthwatering escarole and beans recipe
If you’re ready to serve up comfort in a bowl, this Sausage and Escarole Soup recipe courtesy of food pro Lisa Lotts, owner and publisher of Garlic and Zest, fits the bill. This rich and hearty soup boasts a spicy kick thanks to the hot Italian sausage — but a mild sausage works fine too for a gentler flavor.
Sausage Escarole and Bean Soup
- 16 oz. navy beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1¼ lb. hot Italian sausage links, casings removed
- 1 medium onion, cut into ½-inch dice
- 3 medium carrots peeled, cut into ½-inch dice
- 2 stalks celery, cut into ½-inch dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen string
- 1 head escarole lettuce, roughly chopped
- Active: 20 mins
- Total time: 14 hrs, 20 mins
- Yield: 6 servings
- Pour beans into large dutch oven and sort through to remove pebbles or debris. Fill pot with enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches. Put lid on pot and set aside 8 hours or overnight. Drain water from beans and refill pot with fresh water — again, so tit’s about 2 inches above reconstituted beans. Add 2 bay leaves to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 45 to 50 minutes on low simmer. Turn off heat and let beans sit in pot, covered.
- Meanwhile, over medium high heat add olive oil to large skillet. When oil is hot, add sausage and break apart with back of spoon or fork to brown meat. Add carrots and onions and cook 3 to 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Stir in garlic, and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until very fragrant.
- Transfer sausage mixture to beans. Add bundle of thyme and stir to combine. Heat pot to boiling and reduce to a simmer, cooking another 30 to 40 minutes until beans are quite tender.
- Just before serving, stir in escarole and cook until it wilts, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Note: Allow leftover soup to cool before transfer to an airtight container and storing in the fridge for up to 1 week.
What to use if you can’t find escarole
While escarole is generally available year-round, if you can’t find it in the produce section Randhawa suggests using kale or Swiss chard instead. “Both hold up well to slow cooking and offer a similar slightly bitter flavor profile that complements the creamy beans beautifully,” she says. These substitutes may need 5 to 10 minutes to soften and cook due to their sturdier leaves compared to escarole. So, keep an eye on the soup and taste one of the leaves to ensure it’s fully done
For more cozy dishes, check out the recipes below: