Ready in 25 minutes, this Sautéed Escarole Recipe from Naples is delicious! This sweet-and-savory dish features Italian greens with olive oil, garlic, raisins and pine nuts. Enjoy this festive, vegan side dish for the holidays or any time of year!
Have you ever tried escarole? It's one of my favorite green vegetables, and this sweet-and-savory recipe from Naples will be one of the tastiest dishes of your life.
Think garlickly greens sautéed in olive oil with plumped raisins and crunchy pine nuts. Yum!
It's a feast for the senses, with gorgeous green colors, contrasting textures, an appetizing aroma and incredible flavors.
With its sophisticated flavor profile, this Italian Sautéed Escarole is an impressive dish to serve to company. Yet, it's easy to make, and children love it too because of the sweetness from the raisins!
I hope you give it a try! And, don't miss our family's Escarole-Stuffed Pizza!
What is escarole, anyway?
Escarole is a variety of endive. It's from the chicory category and looks like green lettuce. The outer leaves are dark green, while the inner ones are paler.
Escarole is quite nutritious. It's loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins A and K. You can read more about this leafy green vegetable's nutritional profile at Healthline.
Escarole is known as "scarola" in Italian, but my family pronounces it the Neapolitan way, which sounds like "shkah-ROLL-ah." Whatever you call it, it's delicious!
Buying escarole: Look for escarole near the heads of lettuce in the grocery store year-round. It's usually next to the Belgian endive, so check the labels to see which one is which. You also can ask someone in the produce department to help you.
Make sure the escarole is bright green and not wilted. The leaves should be curly.
If you need a substitute for escarole, try curly endive, arugula or even spinach.
Raisins: Known as "uva passa" in Italian, raisins bring a sweet "wow factor" to this dish. Feel free to use dark or golden ones. I always use dark raisins here for a nice color contrast.
We'll briefly soak the raisins so they become plump and soft for this recipe. I beg you not to skip them!
Pine nuts: Known as "pignoli" in Italian, pine nuts add special flavor and texture to this dish. They're a bit expensive but are sold in small bags in many grocery stores.
Interestingly, pine nuts are seeds instead of nuts. But if you need to omit them, you can.
Otherwise, substitute the pignoli nuts with sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts or cashews.
Olive oil: We always use regular olive oil, which is milder than extra-virgin olive oil. Use what you prefer.
Clean the greens
Escarole tends to have dirt tucked inside the leaves, so it's important to clean it well.
- Trim off the root ends and any discolored leaves. Cut each bunch into three sections (or four, if the bunch is long).
- Place the cut escarole in a clean sink filled halfway with cold water. Swirl the leaves around. The dirt will sink to the bottom.
- Scoop out the cleaned escarole and place it in a drainer.
How to make sautéed escarole
Like this rapini with garlic, we're briefly boiling the escarole to reduce bitterness, then sautéeing it in olive oil with garlic.
See the recipe card at the end of this post for full details, but here's an overview:
- Add the cleaned escarole to an 8-quart pot (affiliate link) of boiling, salted water. When the water begins boiling again, let the escarole cook for another minute.
- Drain the escarole and rinse with cold water to cool it off. When cooled, squeeze out the liquid with a kitchen towel or paper towels.
- Sauté the garlic in olive oil until fragrant.
- Add the escarole to a 12-inch skillet (affiliate link) with salt and pepper and sauté for a few minutes.
5. Add the raisins and pine nuts and cook a few minutes more until done.
- Briefly boil (blanche) the escarole to reduce bitterness before sauteeing it. This works for any bitter greens.
- Carefully squeeze out the liquid from the cooled escarole before adding it to your pan. This keeps the greens from splashing too much in the oil and prevents the final dish from being too soggy. (See the recipe card for the best way to do this.)
How to serve it
Sautéed escarole can be served warm or at room temperature.
And the leftovers are delicious in an omelette!
But, if you want to keep things vegan, enjoy these sautéed greens with some crusty Homemade Italian Bread.
Storing fresh escarole
Wrap the unwashed greens in a damp paper towel and store them in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This will help keep the escarole fresh for 3-5 days.
Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to five days. Let the sautéed escarole sit out and come to room temperature before serving, or else briefly heat it in the microwave to take off the chill.
I don't recommend freezing this cooked escarole, because it would probably become too soggy.
Frequently asked questions
Raw escarole tastes slightly bitter, but cooked escarole tastes milder. The inner, pale leaves are sweeter than the outer, dark green ones. When prepared according to this sautéed escarole recipe, there is no bitterness, just sweet-and-savory goodness.
There are two main types of endive, and escarole is one of them. The other is curly endive, also known as chicory, or "frisee." Chicory has skinny, narrow green leaves, while escarole has wider, paler leaves.
More Italian recipes like this
- Tuscan Bean Soup with Escarole and Potatoes
- Italian Broccoli with Gremolata
- Spinach-Ricotta Pie
- Italian Green Beans with Tomatoes
- 31 Italian Side Dishes
If you try this Italian Sautéed Escarole Recipe, be sure to leave a comment and a rating!
Italian Sautéed Escarole Recipe
- 2 1-pound bunches of escarole
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1.5 ounces raisins (small box of dark or golden ones)
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- ¼ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Place your raisins in a small bowl of water to plump. Fill a tall, 8-quart pot about ⅔ full with salted water, enough to cover the escarole when you add it later. Put the pot on the stove over high heat to boil. Fill your sink about halfway with cold water.
- Cut off the root end of the escarole. With the bunch horizontally in front of you, hold the leaves closed and slice the escarole into three equal sections (or two, if the bunch is small). Place the escarole leaves in the water-filled sink and swirl them around to remove the dirt.
- When the water on the stove is boiling, add the cleaned escarole to the pot. When the water returns to boiling, let the escarole cook for one more minute.
- Drain the escarole in a colander in the sink and rinse with cold water to cool it off. While the escarole is draining, peel and slice the garlic. Drain the raisins.
- When the escarole is cooled, use tongs to place the greens in a lint-free kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the escarole and squeeze out the liquid. You also could use paper towels, but be careful if the greens are still really warm.
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch skillet. Add the garlic, and when it becomes fragrant, add the escarole to the pan, tossing to mix. Add the salt and pepper. Sauté the greens for about three minutes, then add the raisins and pine nuts, stirring to combine. Sauté for another three minutes, or to your liking. Taste again for seasonings.
- Either serve immediately or let the escarole come to room temperature first. Refrigerate the leftovers for up to five days. Leftovers should be served at room temperature or just slightly heated in the microwave.
- Escarole looks like leafy green lettuce. (See the photos in the post.)
- Look for it near the heads of lettuce in the grocery store year-round.
- It's usually next to the endive, so check the labels to see which one is which. You also can ask someone in the produce department to help you.
- Make sure the escarole is bright green and not wilted. The leaves should be curly.
(Recipe Source: My mom, who learned this method from my Nonna. Mom probably uses more oil but doesn't measure. Originally published on December 30, 2014 and updated now with new photos and additional information.)