Escarole and White Bean Soup is a classic soup made popular in America by Italian immigrants. I grew up eating a version of it that my mother still makes today as one of the recipes she can share with my completely vegan family.
Italians know it as Zuppa di Scarola e Fagioli. In America, sometimes it is called Italian Wedding Soup, but that is usually with the addition of meatballs, which aren’t necessary!
Escarole is a slightly hardy lettuce, and this soup is one of very few popular dishes when lettuce of any variety gets cooked. Historically rooted, this soup traces its origins to the rustic kitchens of Italy, where resourcefulness met culinary prowess. It served as a comforting staple, especially during winter when escarole and beans were abundant.
Gather your ingredients, embrace the artistry of simplicity, and let the aroma of Escarole and White Bean Soup transport you to the heart of Italian kitchens. Let’s dive right into it!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊Vegan AF: Like all of the vegan soup recipes I share, this is made completely without animal products and has no cholesterol. No chicken broth, parmigiana cheese, or other cruelty will be found here! It can also easily be made gluten-free by using a wheat-free pasta, or by leaving the pasta out entirely.
🌿 Infused Elegance in Every Spoonful: The marriage of escarole's nourishing subtle bitterness and the creamy texture of white beans creates a sophisticated flavor profile that's both comforting and refined.
🥸Foolproof Simplicity: Like all the plant-based recipes on my blog, this Escarole and White Bean Soup has been meticulously perfected through constant repetition and refinement. After I get the recipe perfect, I shared it with a massive team of dedicated recipe testers from all over the world. My testers loved it, and it works reliably with varying brands of tomatoes, pasta, and other ingredients that vary around the planet.
🍅Notable ingredients and substitutions
While I share lots of onion and garlic-free garlic recipes on this blog, this soup wouldn’t be the same without the sweet pungent base of onions! Leeks or, shallots (which I use in everything from sambal dabu dabu and sambal matah to tahu goreng) make excellent substitutes.
Whole Peeled Tomatoes (Pomodori Pelati)
The simplicity of this recipe, and the short time it takes to make relies on using good quality canned whole peeled tomatoes. Of course, you can blanch and skin tomatoes on your own, but since this soup is often made in the winter when great tomatoes aren’t in season, use the canned ones, just lightly broken up with a spoon or crushed by hand.
I use unsalted vegetable stock for making this soup and more exotic dishes like sayur lodeh, and khao suey. The reason is that calling for fully unsalted stock, and then giving you the amount of salt to add to the soup gives everyone around the world more consistent results, since store-bought stock varies a lot in its sodium content. I usually make my own stock by boiling carrots, onion and celery with a little garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. If you get store-bought stock and can’t find fully unsalted, opt for low-sodium stock, and adjust the salt in the recipe to your taste.
This leafy green, a cousin to endive, brings a mild bitterness to the soup. A nutritional powerhouse, escarole is loaded with vitamins A and K. If escarole is elusive, other greens like bunched spinach, kale, or Swiss chard can step in.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Bringing subtle warmth to the escarole bean soup, red pepper flakes add a gentle kick. You can of course, leave them out if you don’t like any heat. Other chilies you can use here that work quite well are crushed Thai chili flakes, which I use for making nam jim jaew, Aleppo chili flakes, which I use in my Ezme salad, and gochugaru, which is the star of the show in my vegan kimchi and Korean bbq sauce recipes.
White Beans (Fagioli Bianchi)
The creamy texture of canned beans, be it navy, cannellini, or butter beans, brings heartiness and plant-based protein. If you love white beans as much as me you will be blown away by the classic Moroccan dish Loubia, and also how well they work to make homemade vegan chicken too!
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Tuscan White Soup: In Tuscany, where simplicity reigns supreme, consider incorporating a handful of hand-torn kale leaves instead of escarole. This imparts a robust, earthy note, paying homage to the region's rustic charm. Finish with a drizzle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil for an authentic Tuscan touch. Traditionally, some folks top it with grated parmesan cheese, so if you are vegan, use some vegan parmesan!
Mediterranean Vibes: For a Southern Mediterranean flair, swap the traditional pasta for bulgur (like you would use to make kisir, tabouleh, or bulgur pilavi). This nod to Turkish influence adds a delightful texture, soaking up the flavorful broth with something a bit more whole-grain and less processed than pasta.
📖 How to make perfect Escarole and Bean Soup
Nail this Italian soup like a pro on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Warm olive oil in a sizable pot over medium heat. Wait 90 seconds until it sizzles, then sauté onions and celery for 4 minutes until they're tender.
Life without garlic is laaaame:
Stir in minced garlic and cook for an extra 2 minutes until the kitchen is filled with its lovely aroma.
Pour in whole peeled tomatoes, either breaking them apart with a spoon or crushing them by hand.
Oh BROTH(er) Where Art Thou:
Pour in unsalted vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a vigorous boil over high heat.
Green and Pasta:
As soon as the pot boils, stir in chopped escarole and your choice of dried ditalini or elbow macaroni.
Once the pasta reaches an al dente level of tenderness, take the pot off the heat. Stir in sugar, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, salt and drained beans. Ensure everything is well mixed.
Salt and Savor:
Taste and adjust salt as needed. Serve your Escarole and White Bean Soup hot, garnished with parsley and an extra sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes if desired.
Wish this was a bit spicier? A spoonful of shatta gives a great extra kick if you're craving some heat.
- Love the Sear: When sautéing onions and celery, let them dance in the olive oil until they achieve a lightly golden-brown sear. This extra depth of flavor will infuse your Escarole and White Bean Soup with a complex, savory undertone.
- Tomato Texture: If you want a smoother soup, you can use crushed tomatoes instead of whole peeled tomatoes. But I like the base of the soup broth with big rough pieces of tomato, and the best way to achieve that is to break up whole peeled tomatoes with a spoon or by hand before adding them in, juices and all. If your tomatoes aren't super flavorful, you can balance them with a little added lemon juice and some extra sweetener.
- Don’t F Up Your Pasta: To ensure your pasta maintains its al dente perfection, slightly undercook it. Remember, it’s surrounded by hot soup, and will continue to get tender. This is especially important if you plan on storing the soup and reheating it later.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Certainly! Mature bunched spinach, kale or Swiss chard can seamlessly replace escarole, offering a different but equally satisfying texture.
Certainly, especially when tomatoes are in season. Simply blanch the tomatoes in boiling hot water for about a minute and transfer them to an ice bath where you can easily remove the skins. Then, roughly chop the fresh tomatoes to use in the soup.
Allow the soup to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Consume within three days for optimal freshness. For longer storage, freeze the soup in portions for up to one month.
Ensure the soup is completely cooled, then transfer it to freezer-safe containers or resealable bags. Leave some space for expansion, label with the date, and freeze. To thaw, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Gently reheat the thawed or refrigerated soup on the stovetop over medium heat. Stir occasionally to maintain consistency. Add a splash of vegetable stock if needed to restore desired thickness.
🌡️ Microwave Reheating:
For a quick fix, heat individual portions in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat, stirring intermittently to ensure even warming. Adjust the time based on your microwave's power to avoid overheating.
✌️My faves to serve with this vegan soup:
Say Hi on Social! 👋
Follow me on Instagram & Facebook for more recipes.
❤️Love this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a lovey-dovey comment too!
Escarole and White Bean Soup
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 cup onions small dice
- 1 stalk celery small dice
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
- 8 cups unsalted vegetable stock
- 1 medium head escarole washed and chopped roughly
- 6 oz. dried ditalini or elbow macaroni (about 1 cup)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 15.5 oz. can white beans (navy beans, cannellini beans or butter beans) drained and rinsed
- Fresh parsley leaves
- Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is hot, sauté diced onions and celery for 4 minutes until softened.
- Stir in minced garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Pour in whole peeled tomatoes, breaking them apart with a spoon, or crushing them by hand.
- Add unsalted vegetable stock, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- When the pot reaches a boil, add chopped escarole, and dried ditalini (or elbow macaroni).
- When the pasta is just tender, remove the pot from the heat and stir in sugar, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, salt, and drained white beans. Mix well.
- Adjust salt to taste and serve the Escarole and White Bean Soup hot, garnished with parsley and additional crushed red pepper flakes if desired.