My Mother’s family came from the Naples area of Italy, so many of the wonderful dishes that we enjoyed as a family were seafood based, specifically shellfish. My Father’s side of the family came from Morrone del Sannio, a hamlet in the Province of Campobasso in the Italian region Molise province. This beautiful little mountain town is 17 square miles in area and has a population of less than 600 people.
This sleepy little commune is home to a tradition of mostly inexpensive and excellent one-pot peasant meals. My dad was a master at producing delicious one-pot meals, especially those centered around beans and leafy greens. This brings us to a truly great recipe – Escarole & Beans. It sounds like a simple dish, and it is truly quick and easy to make.
Traditionally, everything in this recipe is inexpensive, and therefore, popular fare with a population that historically had very modest financial means. My Father’s family consisted of eight motherless children being raised by their hardworking Father (my paternal grandfather was a railroad switchman), so a meal like Escarole and Beans went a long way for a poor immigrant family like his.
I’ve taken serious creative liberty with this recipe by adding the costly-but-worthwhile Prosciutto De Parma to the recipe, which would have been a luxury back in the day. I used GOYA Cannellini beans, because they are always excellent quality. I’ve also added hot peppers, which was one of my Father’s favorite ingredients to cook with. He grew jalapeno peppers in his yard, so he always had a lot to work with during the growing. He always added a serious kick to his version of this dish.
With that said, there really is no “one right way” to make this dish, so please be creative. While I offer you my version of this great recipe, feel free to experiment and invent – you may surprise yourself with something unique.
- 6 to 8 cloves of fresh Garlic
- 1 ripe Eggplant
- 8 large plum Tomatoes
- 3 16 oz. Cans of GOYA brand Cannellini Beans
- 1 large head of fresh Escarole
- A hock/end of Prosciutto de Parma
How to Make Escarole and Beans
Initial preparation involves browning the garlic in high quality olive oil along with spicy peppers (diced or cut in rings – your choice) and cubed Prosciutto. Peel and slice the garlic, and brown lightly in olive oil. Personally, I like garlic sliced thick – when sautéed, the outside turns golden brown and crispy, but the inside stays soft and moist. Place the Garlic, Prosciutto and Peppers in the bottom of a 12 qt. Gravy Pot, add just enough olive oil to sauté in and cook until garlic is a golden tan or brown. When desired browning is achieved, lower the heat enough so the oil can cool, and the sizzling stops.
Escarole & Beans Simmering
Coarsely dice the tomatoes, escarole and eggplant, and add them to the previously sautéed ingredients along with all three cans of beans. Increase the heat just enough (low-to-medium gas) and continue cooking until the eggplant is very soft and falls apart to the touch. Make sure your flame is not too high, as you want to avoid overcooking the garlic which can make it bitter. Use the water the cannellini beans came in as it provides the moisture necessary to continue cooking the meal. It also contains some of the nutrients naturally present in the beans.
Stir regularly over the same low-to-medium flame and cook until the beans easily flake apart to the touch of a spoon. The colors and aromas at this point When this occurs, it is ready to serve. Below is what a nice serving should look like. If you like escarole, consider making our escarole pie recipe.
Here is what a finished bowl should look like: