White Bean and Escarole Soup

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

Chef Maria Luisa Fischetti knows the difference between a good grandmotherly bean-and-greens soup and one that’s positively noble. Her method (which makes all the difference) is a simple long soaking, then slow cooking of the beans so they will cook evenly, and then, when they’re almost finished, crushing and stirring them into a dense cream.

Escarole is added just 10 minutes before serving so that it will retain its vibrant green color. Please don’t forget to scatter cheese curls on this fragrant soup at the table, then drizzle a little extra fresh extra virgin olive oil on top.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried thin red chile pepper, rinsed and broken in half
  • 5 sage leaves
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small head of escarole, well washed and drained
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian oregano
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • Shavings or mild sheep’s milk cheese such as Sardinian pecorino, Cacto di Roma, or if unavailable, a Spanish manchego

Method

  1. Rinse the dried beans and drain. Put the beans in a deep narrow pot, preferably a bean pot. Add water to cover and leave to soak overnight.
  2. The following day, drain and rinse the beans and place in a clay pot or enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the garlic, bay leaf, dried red chile pepper, sage, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cover with enough water to cover everything by 1 inch. Cover with foil and a tight-fitting lid. Place in a cold oven, set the temperature to 450°F, and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 225°F and bake for 1½ to 2 hours longer. The cooking time of the beans will vary according to the quality and age. Discard the red chile pepper and bay and sage leaves. Leave the beans in the pot.
  3. Shred the escarole. You should have about I packed quart. Place the greens in a large wide saucepan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the greens are soft and glazed, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans to the saucepan. Use a potato masher to crush the beans to a puree. Dilute with as much of the cooking liquid as needed to make the beans creamy. Simmer over very low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, a few pinches of crushed hot red pepper, and a dribble of extra virgin olive oil over the soup. Serve hot with curls of cheese.