Gigantes plaki, or baked giant beans, are about as Greek and about as good as a dish can be.

There are countless variations of this classic dish and the recipe below is our family’s favorite. This recipe calls for parsley, celery, oregano and mint to flavor the delicate tomato sauce and beans. This combination is a bit lighter, brighter and slightly sweeter in taste than other versions with dill, carrot and/or cinnamon. Truth be told though, I don’t think I’ve ever met a plate of gigantes I didn’t like!

Busy schedule? No worries – gigantes plaki can easily be made in parts or stages, I do it all the time. Prep your gigantes (or large lima) beans up to 2 days ahead, make your sauce the day before and then assemble and bake when you’re ready to enjoy – its just that easy.

I often start soaking my beans in the morning and cook them later that same day – late afternoon or evening. Try to give your beans at least 8-10 hours of soaking time but you can go with as little as 6 or 7. I like to use Arosis brand gigantes but feel free to substitute any large or ford hook lima beans. Soaking your beans makes a big difference so don’t skip this step!  The beans are much less gassy and take much less time to cook

You can set aside the cooked beans, covered in the refrigerator, for a few days until you’re ready to bake them. And the sauce takes really no time at all so I just make that right before adding to the pre-cooked beans and baking.

The bean baking time here is about 2 hours in a 350 degree oven.  I know many people who hike up the temp to 400 and cook for a hour and thats ok but to me, this is a slow cooking dish and the flavors will thank you for the extra time to come together.

Remember that gigantes (or large lima) beans foam up quite a bit when you cook them. Don’t freak out if its your first time and don’t go too far from the stove as you’ll need to skim off the foam every 10-15 minutes or so. Its a messy affair should it boil over onto your stovetop…..

To boil beans, cover with about 2-3 inches of water, do NOT add salt, and cook over medium-high heat for about 50 minutes from the time you put the pot on the heat. They should be done but not too done and will finish their cooking later in the oven.

MAKE SURE TO SAVE2 cups of the cooking water before you drain the beans. You’ll need it later for the sauce. It adds some of the starch from the beans into the sauce and gives you a thicker/creamier sauce.

When ready to bake your gigantes, gently spread the boiled beans in an even layer in your pan.  I find a 9x13x2 inch baking pan is perfect for 1 pound of beans (dried). For doubling or tripling the recipe, I use a large, deep ceramic casserole dish. The sides are about 4 inches high to accommodate the additional sauce.

When making the sauce, a cup of olive oil may seem overly generous but you want your finished baked beans to be creamy good and this is the only fat in this dish so pour on!

Sauté the chopped onions and celery, until they’re soft, add the garlic for a minute or two until tender and then add herbs and spices.  Give the pan a good stir to mix everything together evenly. Then cook for only another minute just to release the flavors oils and add the crushed tomato. Cook for 5 minutes to bring the sauce together and then add your reserved cooking water. Bring sauce up to a boil and set aside until ready to bake your beans.

When ready to bake, pour sauce over beans layered in pan and carefully stir to incorporate everything. Add 1 cup of water (room temp) to the pan and cook at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

I give the pan a gentle stir every half hour or so but it isn’t absolutely necessary if you have to leave it on its own. Most of the water will have been absorbed and its a good idea to stir once and then allow the beans to stand undisturbed for about 15- 30 minutes before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans (gigantes or large lima beans)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (approx 2 medium onions)
  • 1/3 cup chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped celery (approx 2-3 stalks)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp crushed, dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Greek olive oil 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups reserved cooking water from beans
  • 1 cup water, room temperature

Soak dried beans overnight or at least 7 hours. Boil for 50 minutes and RESERVE 2 cups of cooking liquid before draining beans.

Saute chopped onions and celery in olive oil over medium low heat until tender. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add herbs and spices, mix to combine completely and cook for just a minute to combine flavor oils.

Add chopped tomatoes, stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes. Add reserved bean cooking liquid and bring sauce up to a boil.  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to bake the beans.

Layer cooked gigantes beans evenly in 9×13 baking pan and pour sauce over top. Add 1 cup room temperature water and bake, uncovered, for 2 hours in 350 degree oven. Stir approximately every half hour or so.

Allow baked beans to rest for about 15-30 minutes before serving. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of buttery white wine for a most wonderful, traditional meal.