Italian-Style Tomato and Herb Gigantes

braised tomato gigantes

For years I'd convinced myself of an intense dislike for lima beans — a dislike that was at odds with my fondness for pretty much every other kind of bean on the planet, but a dislike that I now think must have originated with the clammy blandness of canned lima beans that somehow manage to integrate their blandness into what would otherwise be tasty bean salads.

But that all changed with my introduction to "gigantes" several years ago at a Greek restaurant. A traditional Greek dish of giant lima beans (the "gigantes") baked in a rich herbed and seasoned tomato sauce, I've fallen in love with both the bean and the dish and have experimented with several versions since, both baked and stove-top.

The craving hit again recently, and this time I've transported the gigantes across the Mediterranean by simmering them on the stove-top in a rich and zesty herbed Italian tomato sauce. The basil, oregano and thyme tomato sauce is delicious enough to serve as a pasta sauce as well, but the light buttery taste of dried and cooked lima beans makes the two a perfect fit, and the lovely plump shapes of the lima beans look wonderful floating in the rich red sauce topped with some plump salty Kalamata olives.

Gigantes or giant lima beans can be found at Greek grocers or in the ethnic cuisine aisles of many supermarkets, but regular dried lima beans will work just as well — just don't use the canned beans! Do take care not to overcook the beans. You want them tender but not falling apart.

Italian-Style Tomato and Herb GigantesItalian-Style Tomato and Herb Gigantes
Recipe by
Cuisine: Italian
Published on May 14, 2014

Plump buttery giant lima beans simmered in a rich and zesty Italian tomato sauce with basil, oregano and thyme

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 to 70 minutes

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  • 2 cups dried gigantes or lima beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 5 1/2 oz (156 mL) tin tomato paste
  • 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water, or more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • chopped Kalamata olives for garnish (optional)
  • Rinse the beans and soak overnight in enough water to cover. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the beans are nearly cooked — about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften — about 5 minutes. Add half of the garlic and jalapeños, and stir for another minute. Now stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, paprika, oregano, thyme, dill and bay leaves, and simmer until you have a fairly thick sauce — about 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Stir in the cooked beans, basil and remaining garlic and jalapeños, and pour in 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer until you have a saucy base and the beans are tender but not falling apart — about 15 to 20 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

  • Season with salt and pepper and pour in the lemon juice. Simmer for a few more minutes and then stir in the parsley.

  • Serve hot, garnished with olives if desired.

Makes 6 servings

braised tomato gigantes

Other Italian-style dishes you may enjoy from Lisa's Kitchen:
Mushroom, Ricotta and Asiago Cheese Pizza
Hearty Italian Bean and Pasta Soup
Vegetarian Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne
Ricotta Gnudi with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce

On the top of the reading stack: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck


Eileen said...

I hated lima beans as a kid too, but now? I want all the beans, all the time! These gigantes sound so good--spicy and delicious. I bet they would be great piled on baguette slices for a tasty snack with drinks.

Joanne said...

Well I'm definitely glad you got over that dislike! I love limas. Especially when they're prepared as you have them!

Tante Mali said...

Dear Lisa,
found you while searching for a atzuki beans recipe - thank you for sharing all the wonderful meals!
Have a great time