At just about any Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh, you will find “beans and greens” or Scarola e Fagioli on the menu. This hearty dish is typically a side dish but is sometimes served as a soup, and is always served with a piece of crusty Italian bread and parmesan cheese sprinkled over top.
This classic Italian (or Italian-American) dish is a “peasant dish”. Many people will tell you that it originated in the U.S., not in Italy, but that is debatable. Beans and Greens quite possibly originated in Southern Italy, where many of Pittsburgh’s Italian residents immigrated from in the late 1800s.
At that time, the ingredients would have been inexpensive. You would have been able to feed a lot of people and fill them up for quite a while, for very little money. That still holds true today.
I’ve tried many versions throughout Pittsburgh but my all-time favorite is from Colangelo’s restaurant in the historic Strip District.
This one has a bit of a spicy kick that is balanced by the potatoes and cannellini beans. Potatoes are not, by all accounts, a traditional part of the dish. I think they add texture and help carry the flavors throughout the dish so are a nice addition. Instead of sausage, which is found in many versions, this one has pancetta. It adds just enough of a savory note to not overpower the beans and escarole, like sausage can.
Are you familiar with this dish? How do you make it?
Beans and Greens
- 1/4 cup diced pancetta (about 1 oz.)
- 1 leek, sliced in 1/4 inch strips washed and cleaned. White part only
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium red potatoes, diced
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning blend
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans
- 6 cups shredded escarole tough center stem removed
- 4 slices Italian bread
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large saucepan cook pancetta until crispy. Remove and drain all but 1 Tbsp. fat from the pan and add the leeks and garlic. Cook until the leeks are soft.
- Add pancetta to the leeks. Stir in red potatoes, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and red pepper. Cook until potatoes are just tender and the broth is mostly evaporated.
- Add cannellini beans and escarole and cook until escarole is wilted.
- Serve in a shallow bowl over a slice of crusty Italian bread and sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top.