Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.
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