This bitter green in the endive family has a starring role in my Italian Wedding Soup, but it also belongs on any Sunday supper table. The rich meat on your plate will beg for a counterpoint of a cleansing green vegetable. Escarole with just a hint of red pepper flakes always found its way onto my plate next to a sausage link. The most important step in working with escarole is that you clean it really well and dry it really well.–Joey Campanaro


No one likes gritty bits in their greens, and escarole’s curly edges are excellent at trapping dirt and sand. To get your escarole really clean, give it an old-school tub bath in your sink. Fill your clean sink (or a very large bowl) with very cold water and dunk your escarole up and down. Drain the sink (you’ll see a ton of dirt left behind) and rinse away the dirt at the bottom. Roughly chop the escarole. Fill your clean sink back up with cold water, toss in the chopped escarole, dunk it under, watch it float to the top, use your hands to remove it, and set it aside in a big bowl. Drain the sink, rinse the dirt, and repeat, filling the sink and dunking the escarole for a third time. The last time that you remove the escarole, place it in your salad spinner. Gently spin the escarole a few times to remove excess water. By the way, do not pound that little brake on the top—I know you do it ’cause it’s fun; I’ve seen you. But it kills delicate lettuces, so control the speed! Now your escarole is fresh, clean, and ready.

A blue and white serving plate topped with sautéed escarole and a serving spoon on the side.

Sautéed Escarole

5 from 1 vote
This sautéed escarole is an easy, healthy side dish made by quickly cooking greens with garlic and red pepper flakes. An Italian classic.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories138 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches (each about 6 oz) escarole, rinsed*(See note above), tough outer leaves and roots removed, and coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil and add the garlic, cooking until the oil around the garlic starts to bubble and some (but not all) of the garlic pieces are lightly toasted and brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: Choose a skillet that has lots of surface area. You’ll need it as the escarole takes up quite a lot of space prior to being wilted.

  • Add the red pepper flakes and escarole and give it a stir so that the garlic is no longer on the bottom of the skillet and it’s incorporated into the escarole. Now, step away from the skillet. Don’t move it. Don’t toss the greens. Just let it sizzle and pop while it cooks, releases its water, and wilts, about 3 minutes.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and season with a generous pinch of salt.
  • Give it another toss with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

Adapted From

Big Love Cooking

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 138 kcalCarbohydrates: 4 gProtein: 1 gFat: 14 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 10 gSodium: 23 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 0.3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Joey Campanaro. Photo © 2020 Con Poulos. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe was very clear and well written. The most time-consuming part of the recipe is cleaning the escarole!

My favorite part of the recipe is the “step away from the pan” description. I must have circled around at least 3 times in 3 minutes to turn the escarole—it was really hard not to move it, or toss it!! Instead, with tongs in my hand, I read and re-read the instructions (like a mantra) so I wouldn’t touch it. And it was great! So worth it. The result was escarole with semi-fried-like spots that were really delicious. While eating, we admired the seared areas. We sauté greens often, and love escarole, but this really made the recipe special and taught me an easy new technique that I will remember…after repeating it for 3 minutes—don’t move it or toss it!

I subscribe to the washing directions for the escarole, however, washing the sink then rinsing a few times to make sure there is no cleaner residue would nag at my brain later—did I rinse enough? So for any substantial amount of greens I use a large container from the restaurant supply store that I use for bread making and perform the same process.

Be careful to not get the garlic too brown in step 1, as it will be cooked later with the escarole, and garlic too browned (aka burnt) is bitter.

I would definitely make this recipe again, and there are so many uses for leftovers: put into a frittata or omelet, re-heat the greens with raisins and pine-nuts (my fave), add to pasta, add to a quiche.

This is pretty much the classic Italian preparation for sautéed escarole. It’s as simple as can be—just quickly sautéed in garlic and olive with a touch of red pepper. I had 2 very large bunches and so I doubled the amount of ingredients, which nicely served 6.

The only difference for me was that I had to give the pieces a couple of quick tosses in the pan rather than letting them sit and cook. They needed those tosses to ensure that all of the pieces were evenly cooked. A great side dish for almost any protein, especially pork or sausage, but would do as well with fish and poultry.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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