Beans and Greens, Italian Style

Beans and GreensEvery culture, I suspect, has some version of pot beans flavored with greens and perhaps a bit of meat. I adapted this version, very loosely, from one posted at the Web site Back Road Journal. It is one of many for Minestra di Scarola e Fagioli or Zuppa di Scarola e Faglioli, a cannellini bean and escarole soup from the Campania region of Italy around Naples. Since I had neither cannellini beans nor escarole I used dried kidney beans and some mustard greens from Sunny Hill Farms. For flavoring I added some homemade bacon and a hot pepper from my garden. You could, of course, use canned beans, store-bought bacon, and any greens that strike your fancy.

Note: the mustard greens I had were quite mild so I added some mustard seed. Taste yours and decide whether or not to follow suit. Some mustard greens can be quite spicy.



Dried kidney or cannellini beans

8 ounces

250 grams


4 cups

1 liter

Mustard greens, 6 to 8 leaves

2 ounces

60 grams

Olive oil

1 tablespoon

15 ml

Bacon or pancetta, finely diced

2 ounces

60 grams

Mustard seed (optional)

½ teaspoon

2½ ml

Onion, thinly sliced (1 small)

3 ounces

95 grams

Garlic, sliced

4 cloves

4 cloves

Hot pepper, fresh or dried (optional)

to taste

to taste

Dry vermouth

2 tablespoons

30 ml

Chicken stock as needed

about 1 cup

about 250 ml

Oregano leaves

1 tablespoon

15 ml

Bay leaf



Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

1 ounce (⅓ cup)

30 grams

Extra virgin olive oil to serve




Rinse the beans and pick out any small stones or other debris. Place in pressure cooker with the water and cook at high pressure (15 psi, 103 kPa) for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then open according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove the tough lower stems from the mustard greens and cut them into ½-inch (1 cm) strips. Rinse thoroughly and dry.

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the bacon or pancetta until it is crispy and has rendered its fat. Remove, leaving behind as much fat as possible, and set aside.  

Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onion, garlic, and mustard seeds if using. When the onions are soft softened but not colored add the mustard leaves and sauté until wilted and bright green.

Deglaze the pot with the vermouth then add the beans and their cooking liquid. Add chicken stock to just cover the beans. Stir in the bacon, oregano, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring from time to time. Most of the liquid should have evaporated. Be careful that the beans do not burn. Stir in the cheese and serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


2 responses to “Beans and Greens, Italian Style

  1. Karen November 8, 2011 at 08:23

    I am so happy that you made your dish. I know it must have been good…it certainly looks great. Thanks for mentioning my blog and the recipe.

    • Leo Cotnoir November 8, 2011 at 10:22

      You’re quite welcome! I try to do my bit to stem the flood of plagerism on the Internet by being a stickler for attribution. Without ideas from blogs like yours I couldn’t cook as I do.

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