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In Crete, simple white beans take on deep garlic-tomato flavor
Milk Street Bowtie Greek-Style Baked White Beans in Tomato Sauce

Greek-Style Baked White Beans in Tomato Sauce

Appears in May-June 2022

1¾ hours 30 minutes active, plus soaking and cooling

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Greek-Style Baked White Beans in Tomato Sauce

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Gigantes plaki, or gigante beans baked in tomato sauce, is a Greek classic. The delicious version we tasted at Manousakis Winery on the island of Crete had us eager to re-create the dish ourselves. But we quickly learned that dried gigante beans, a type of large, white runner bean—they are not lima beans, contrary to what some sources say—are not widely available in the U.S. We discovered that great northern beans, though smaller, are an excellent alternative. (We prefer them over cannellini beans, which are slightly larger but have a tendency to cook unevenly and break down even if just slightly overdone.) If you are able to source dried gigante beans, they will require at least 50 minutes of covered cooking in the Dutch oven to become tender, and even when fully cooked, will have a firmer texture than great northerns. This is a multi-step recipe but requires minimal hands-on time. First, the soaked beans are simmered in a pot in the oven until tender; meanwhile, a rich tomato sauce is cooked on the stovetop. The two then are combined and finished in the oven, where the flavors deepen and concentrate.

6

Servings

Tip

Don’t try to take a shortcut by quick-soaking the beans. For even cooking and the best texture, the beans need to soak for at least 12 hours at room temperature prior to cooking. Don’t forget to add the salt to the soaking water, which helps produce more tender beans.

1¾ hours

30 minutes active, plus soaking and cooling

1 pound dried great northern beans
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
2 medium celery stalks
1 medium zucchini
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, halved
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
6 ounce can tomato paste (⅔ cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Ingredients
  • 1

    pound dried great northern beans

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2

    bay leaves

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, peeled

  • 2

    medium celery stalks

  • 1

    medium zucchini

  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled

  • 1¼-1½

    pounds ripe tomatoes, halved

  • 3

    medium garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 6

    ounce can tomato paste (⅔ cup)

  • teaspoons dried oregano

Directions
  1. 01
    First, soak the beans. In a large bowl, stir together the beans, 3 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt. Soak at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse the beans.
  2. 02
    Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven, combine the beans, bay, pepper flakes and 5½ cups water; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and bake until tender, about 40 minutes.
  3. 03
    Meanwhile, set a box grater in a medium bowl. Grate the onion on the large holes down to the root end. Next, grate the celery into the bowl; discard the strings that remain. Grate the zucchini and carrot down to the stems; discard the stems. Set the mixture aside. Into another medium bowl, grate the tomato halves (start with the cut sides against the grater); stop when you reach the skin and discard it. Set the tomatoes aside. Finally, grate the garlic cloves on the small holes of the box grater; set aside.
  4. 04
    When the beans are tender, remove the pot from the oven. Increase the oven to 375°F. Transfer the beans with their liquid to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; wipe out and reserve the pot. Remove and discard the bay; set the beans aside.
  5. 05
    In the same pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the grated vegetable mixture (but not the tomatoes or garlic) and 1½ teaspoons salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to release some moisture, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. 06
    Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown and sticks to the bottom of the pot, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the grated tomatoes, oregano and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and a few shades darker, 3 to 4 minutes.
  7. 07
    Spoon the tomato sauce into the beans, then stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling at the edges and the surface is lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Serve drizzled with additional oil.
Tip: Don’t try to take a shortcut by quick-soaking the beans. For even cooking and the best texture, the beans need to soak for at least 12 hours at room temperature prior to cooking. Don’t forget to add the salt to the soaking water, which helps produce more tender beans.
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Reviews
LISA F.
September 25, 2022
Got to love a bean!
I have this cooking now. It smells amazing. Also THANK YOU Sam for saying gigantes properly. [heart]
Kelly B.

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Catherine G.

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JUSTIN C J.

WOW absolutely phenomenal. I used Rancho Gordo lima beans and they were tender and delicious. I toasted some panko with olive oil and sprinkled them over for some crunch. The next day I added a fried egg on top for breakfast and i was in heaven.


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Greek-Style Baked White Beans in Tomato Sauce

Get Ready to Cook

6

Servings

1¾ hours

30 minutes active, plus soaking and cooling

Tip

Don’t try to take a shortcut by quick-soaking the beans. For even cooking and the best texture, the beans need to soak for at least 12 hours at room temperature prior to cooking. Don’t forget to add the salt to the soaking water, which helps produce more tender beans.

Ingredients
  • 1

    pound dried great northern beans

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2

    bay leaves

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, peeled

  • 2

    medium celery stalks

  • 1

    medium zucchini

  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled

  • 1¼-1½

    pounds ripe tomatoes, halved

  • 3

    medium garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 6

    ounce can tomato paste (⅔ cup)

  • teaspoons dried oregano

Step 1 of 7

Prepare the Beans

1
pound dried great northern beans
3
quarts water
2
teaspoons salt

First, soak the beans. In a large bowl, stir together the beans, 3 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt. Soak at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse the beans.

Step 2 of 7

Bake the Beans

2
bay leaves
½
teaspoon red pepper flakes
cups water

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven, combine the beans, bay, pepper flakes and 5½ cups water; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and bake until tender, about 40 minutes.

Step 3 of 7

Grate the Vegetables

1
medium yellow onion, peeled
2
medium celery stalks
1
medium zucchini
1
medium carrot, peeled
1¼-1½
pounds ripe tomatoes, halved
3
medium garlic cloves, peeled

Meanwhile, set a box grater in a medium bowl. Grate the onion on the large holes down to the root end.


Next, grate the celery into the bowl; discard the strings that remain. Grate the zucchini and carrot down to the stems; discard the stems. Set the mixture aside. Into another medium bowl, grate the tomato halves (start with the cut sides against the grater); stop when you reach the skin and discard it. Set the tomatoes aside.


Finally, grate the garlic cloves on the small holes of the box grater; set aside.

Step 4 of 7

Finish the Beans

When the beans are tender, remove the pot from the oven. Increase the oven to 375°F. Transfer the beans with their liquid to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; wipe out and reserve the pot. Remove and discard the bay; set the beans aside.

Step 5 of 7

Cook the Vegetables

3
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
teaspoons salt

In the same pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the grated vegetable mixture (but not the tomatoes or garlic) and 1½ teaspoons salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to release some moisture, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 6 of 7

Make the Tomato Sauce

6
ounce can tomato paste (⅔ cup)
teaspoons dried oregano
1
teaspoon pepper

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown and sticks to the bottom of the pot, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the grated tomatoes, oregano and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and a few shades darker, 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 7 of 7

Finish and Serve

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Spoon the tomato sauce into the beans, then stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling at the edges and the surface is lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Serve drizzled with additional oil.

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