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A Recipe for Lidia Bastianich's Escarole and White Bean Soup

Daniel Hautzinger
Lidia Bastianich holding a pot with her escarole and white bean soup
For a potluck dinner featuring chefs from across Washington, D.C. in her special 'Flavors That Define Us,' Lidia Bastianich brought a soup of escarole and white beans. Photo: Meredith Nierman / GBH & Tavola Productions

Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Define Us premieres on WTTW Tuesday, May 30 at 8:00 pm and will be available to stream. 
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The new special Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Define Us, which follows Lidia Bastianich as she meets and eats with immigrants across America, culminates in a potluck meal at Washington, D.C.'s Immigrant Food. Several D.C. chefs from varying backgrounds brought dishes from their culture to share with each other; Bastianich, herself an immigrant to America from Italy, provided a basic but hearty stew of escarole and white beans. Try her recipe for it below. 

Escarole and White Bean Soup

This was one of the first dishes on the menu when we opened, and it is still a family favorite at home. These vegetables were typically served in a loose broth under stuffed calamari, but they are great on their own or with simply grilled calamari or octopus, and delicious with sauteed or grilled shrimp.


1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or other white beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 fresh bay leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 whole dried pepperoncini
8 cups packed coarsely shredded escarole leaves, preferably the tough outer leaves, washed and drained
1 cup prepared tomato sauce
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


1. Transfer the drained beans to a large Dutch oven. Pour in water to cover by 2 inches, add the bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the water is simmering, pour in 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Season the beans to taste with salt and discard the bay leaves.

2. Wipe the Dutch oven dry, and add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the garlic and pepperoncini, and cook until they are sizzling and golden, about 2 minutes. Add the escarole, and cook and stir until it begins to wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooked beans, tomato sauce, and reserved cooking liquid. Simmer until thick but still saucy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Season with salt, and sprinkle with the chives.

Read an interview with Lidia Bastianich about her new special, Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Define Us.