Pasta, beans, and greens are a classic trio in Italian cuisine. This lovely dish of pasta with escarole (a sturdy, mildly bitter green that resembles romaine lettuce) and two beans showcases their compatibility.
It’s easy to see why pasta, greens, and beans work so well together —the combination is nourishing and hearty. Escarole is an easy-to-prepare (and somewhat underused) leafy green. Its slight bitterness of escarole is tempered by cooking it lightly, and it becomes nice and tender in texture as well.
Escarole looks like a slightly denser, greener version of romaine lettuce, and is a much-loved vegetable in Italian cuisine. Despite its lettuce-like appearance, escarole benefits from brief cooking to temper its mildly bitter bite. It’s a member of the chicory family, a relative of curly endive and radicchio.
If you enjoy leafy greens that are a bit of a challenge to the tooth and slightly bitter, try escarole in salads. Shred it thinly and add a small quantity to salads featuring milder greens. However, I finds escarole more palatable with judicious cooking. It wilts down quickly in sautés, and becomes downright comforting in soups.
Make sure to rinse well: Escarole can be sandy, and there’s nothing like crunching into grit to ruin the enjoyment of a dish. So don’t skip this step!
Plunge chopped escarole into a large bowl of cool water. Swish it around to loosen any grit. Lift the escarole into a colander. If you see a lot of sand in the bowl, drain and rinse the bowl and repeat. Either way, give the escarole another good rinse in the colander.
Bean variations: Though this recipe suggests using two different types of beans — cannellini (large white beans) and red or pink beans, feel free to substitute any other variety of beans you prefer. Chickpeas are good in this dish as well.
Greens variations: In place of escarole, broccoli rabe or any variety of chard can be used.
Recipe is from Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas. Photos of pasta with escarole and two beans by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
- 8 ounces fusilli, rotini, or other pasta twists
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped, or 3 to 4 shallots, sliced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 large head escarole, well washed, and cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
- 1 cup cooked or canned (drained and rinsed) cannellini (large white beans)
- 1 cup cooked or canned (drained and rinsed) red or pink beans
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips, or more, to taste
- Sliced or whole fresh basil leaves to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Vegan Parmesan for topping, optional
- Cook the pasta in plenty of rapidly simmering water until al dente, then drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat about half of the oil in a large wide skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium-low heat until golden.
- Escarole can be sandy, and there’s nothing like crunching into grit to ruin the enjoyment of a dish. So don’t skip this step! Plunge chopped escarole into a large bowl of cool water. Swish it around to loosen any grit. Lift the escarole into a colander. If you see a lot of sand in the bowl, drain and rinse the bowl and repeat. Either way, give the escarole another good rinse in the colander. then add the escarole.
- Add the escarole to the skillet with enough water to keep the bottom of the skillet moist, then cover and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, until tender-crisp, stirring once or twice.
- Stir in the beans and dried tomatoes. Cook over low heat until everything is well heated through, about 4 to 5 minutes longer.
- Combine the cooked pasta with the mixture from the skillet in a large serving bowl and toss together. Drizzle in the remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve at once. Pass around vegan Parmesan, if desired.
Bean variations: Feel free to substitute any other type of beans you prefer. Chickpeas are good in this dish as well.
Greens variations: In place of escarole, you can use broccoli rabe or any variety of chard.
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