I believe every Mediterranean country has its own summertime recipe for green beans and tomatoes. It is a classic dish served throughout the region during the spring and summer and is most commonly prepared with Romano green beans. While Romano green beans (also known as runner beans) are flat and a little paler than traditional green beans, seek them out in your local farmers market. But if they are not available, this recipe is still wonderful with the bright green string beans of summer.
Many years ago we spent a week in Istanbul where every restaurant, without exception, served the exact same preparation of Romano green beans and tomatoes, and always at room temperature. It is a dish almost identical to the Romano green beans and tomatoes served by my Italian side of the family. When the flat green beans are in the market, this is what you make and eat until the season ends.
I sometimes think our American obsession with food can be too overwhelming and intimidating in that we feel we need to make something different with every ingredient. Cultures that have been around much longer than ours often have one preparation for a seasonal ingredient. Romano green beans at the market? It is always Romano green beans and tomatoes. No need to research and try something new. We prepare the dish as it has always been prepared.
The key to green beans and tomatoes is to abandon any desire for crisp-tender beans. The green beans in this dish are meant to soften and meld with the tomatoes and garlic until they become almost a thick stew. It is glorious in its simplicity. Best made in advance, I make this dish when I return home from the market and store in the fridge to enjoy later in the week.
I’ve started to toy with tradition, adding white beans halfway through the cooking to absorb the flavors and transform this side dish into a vegetarian meal. Whatever you decide, Green Beans with Tomatoes is a classic summer dish you will make often throughout the season and when the season ends, you won’t see it again until next year, as it should be.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ lb.-1 lb. green beans, (about 4 cups trimmed beans)
- 1 1b. tomatoes (about 3 medium tomatoes)
- 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, chopped (about 2 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon granulated cane sugar
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
- Handful fresh basil (about 1 cup), divided, chopped
- 1 can of canned white or Cannellini beans, rinsed
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add 1 teaspoon salt and the green beans. Cook for about 5 minutes until crisp tender, drain.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Bring a kettle of water to boil. With a sharp knife, slice an "x" in the bottom of each tomato.
- Place tomatoes in a heat proof bowl, pour over hot water. Let sit for about 3-5 minutes until you see the peel start to pull away. Drain tomatoes and rinse with cold water so they can be handled.
- Pull away the peel, remove the core and scrape out the seeds. Chop tomatoes roughly.
- In a large frypan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine.
- Lower heat to medium low.
- Add drained Romano beans and half of the basil. Stir to combine.
- Cover fry pan and simmer gently over medium low to low heat for about 40 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure they are gently simmering and stir to break up tomatoes. Also check seasoning and more sugar or salt, if needed. The taste of tomatoes widely varies.
- After about 15 minutes, add the drained white beans. Stir to combine.
- After 30 minutes, check and if the green beans are completely soft and slightly thickened, then they are ready. If the beans retain any crispness, keep simmering. Once softened, taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining basil.
- You can serve immediately but I recommend giving an additional drizzle of olive oil and storing the entire dish for later in the week. Serve at room temperature.