Cheap and Easy Italian-Style Beans and Greens Soup

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: ask Tim what his favorite kind of food is, and he’ll say peasant-style Italian.

Vertical image of a bowl of greens and beans soup and a spoon, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Simple Italian. Classic Italian. The kind of food that our great-grandmothers would have made back in the old country.

From homemade pasta to rustic soups, give my man a meal that celebrates the original flavors of things like tomatoes and greens, especially with a nice olive oil and garlic base, and he’s happy.

Vertical close-up image of a bowl filled with a hearty mixture of cooked escarole, cannellini beans, tomatoes, and slices of toasted bread with a metal spoon.

And as is often the case when someone truly likes something and then shares it with you, he’s won me over 100 percent.

I’m telling you this to explain why, when we decided to take up the challenge of creating a dinner for four for under $10, our minds immediately went to what we enjoy most: a meal built around simple, fresh, hearty, healthy, and flavorful ingredients.

Vertical top-down image of a white bowl filled with a hearty stew, metal spoon, and slices of toasted bread on a red checkered towel next to cheese rinds.

Tomatoes and tender escarole, creamy cannellini beans, and a big punch of garlic combine to create a satisfying meal, and the whole thing comes together in no time.

Vertical top-down image of a bowl of hearty stew with grated cheese garnish, a metal spoon, and slices of toasted bread next to a red checkered towel and Parmesan rinds.

You start with a pan of oil and aromatics to which you add the canned white beans, greens, tomatoes, parmesan rind, and the ever-subtle (yet always flavorful) bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil and bing, bang, boom, there you go: a delicious dinner that’s a throwback to Tim’s childhood, reminiscent of Italian kitchens of old, and a representation of my first foray into the world of loving leafy greens.

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Horizontal image of a bowl of soup with cannellini and escarole on a red checkered towel.

Cheap and Easy Italian-Style Beans and Greens Soup


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

Craving a rustic, warming bowl of soup? Whip up this Italian-style classic that’s brimming with creamy white beans and crunchy escarole.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 head escarole, roughly chopped (about 10 ounces, 8-10 cups chopped)
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 2 to 3-inch piece Parmesan cheese rind, plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • 1 dried bay leaf

Instructions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped escarole and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until the greens are completely wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the beans, broth, tomatoes, Parmesan rind, and bay leaf. Stir to combine.
  3. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally and mashing some of the beans to thicken the broth, for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt. Remove the cheese rind and bay leaf.
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan before serving.

  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Soup

Keywords: beans, greens, Italian, garlic, escarole, soup

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop the Vegetables and Saute the Aromatics

Horizontal image of finely chopped onion and garlic cooking in a pot.

Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and roughly chop the escarole. As always, use a well-sharpened chef’s knife and a good cutting board.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and swirl it to coat the pan.

Add the onions and garlic, and season them with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the black pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, for about 5 minutes.

Step 2 – Wilt the Escarole and Grate the Parmesan

Horizontal image of chopped escarole in a pot.

Add the chopped escarole and season it with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir continuously until the greens are completely wilted, for about 2 minutes.

Grate about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese for garnish, and cut off the rind.

Step 3 – Add Remaining Ingredients and Simmer

Horizontal image of cannellini, tomatoes, escarole, and broth in a large pot.

Add the beans, broth or stock, chopped tomatoes, Parmesan rind, and bay leaf. Any Parmesan left on the rind will dissolve into the soup and add a sharp, nutty flavor.

Bring the soup to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low.  Cook, stirring occasionally and mashing some of the beans to thicken the broth, for at least 20 minutes but no more than 30. Otherwise, the main ingredients will lose their texture.

Remove from the heat.

Step 4 – Remove the Rind and Bay Leaf and Serve

Horizontal image of a bowl with stew garnished with grated Parmesan and served with slices of bread, next to cheese rinds and a red and white checkered towel.

Season with salt to taste. Remove the rind and bay leaf, and then ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan.

Pull Up a Spoon and a Slice of Crusty Bread

Whether it’s a sick day, a rainy day, or any day that ends in “y,” this soup is a soul-soothing cure-all.

Escarole’s delicate bitterness cuts through the soup’s rich, garlicky broth, and a few mashes of the white beans are all it takes to thicken up the base like a pro.

But the real secret?

Horizontal image of a bowl of soup with cannellini and escarole on a red checkered towel.

It’s all about that rind. The next time you see an unassuming container of Parmesan rinds in the cheese section of your grocery store, snatch them up and thank me later.

You can add this nutty, umami-rich flavor bomb to homemade tomato sauces and broths, or use it to infuse a saucer or extra-virgin olive oil for a dynamite bread dipper.

Want more steamy bowls of yum that will warm you from the inside out? Give these satisfying soup recipes a shot next:

A dusting of extra cheese makes my soup world go ‘round. What’s your go-to garnish? Fresh herbs? A drizzle of cream? Crusty croutons?

Share your soup toppers in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on October 23, 2015. Last updated: February 5, 2020 at 13:03 pm. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

5 thoughts on “Cheap and Easy Italian-Style Beans and Greens Soup”

  1. just found your site on google and love the posts, photos and design of it! will try this recipe tonight and am very excited to see how it turns out.

    greets from switzerland

    Reply

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