When Tim makes Italian-style green beans, he thinks of his grandma Emily, a beautiful Italian woman with short white hair and smiling blue eyes, who would explain a recipe with a flick of her wrist and an, “Oh, it’s so simple!”
When I make Italian-style green beans, I think of Tim – the man who brought them, along with avocados and perfect grilled cheese sandwiches and raw milk bought straight from the farmer – into my life.
Although we met in person for the first time on a long January afternoon in 2010, and began visiting each other’s towns every month shortly thereafter, Tim and I grew to know each other over a full year of long-distance conversation.
It was the kind that happens on the phone and over email, alongside Twitter updates and photos posted to Instagram.
We’d already been talking for a few months when he posted a picture of this particular dish on social media one night, a plate piled so high with green beans and sauce, you’d think it was the side dish at a dinner party for four rather than the happy, hearty main meal enjoyed by one 20-something-year-old man.
“Yeah, I like green beans, too,” I remember telling him on the phone, categorizing vegetables into levels of like and dislike, cabbage being on the low end and green beans being ranked high. “I think they’re probably the vegetable I like best.”
That statement came from a perspective not unlike most people’s in America, I think – or at least one not too different from that of the people I knew or the ones I watched on TV.
Years later, as an adult in my early blogging days, I’d been adventurous enough to roast green beans on high heat and cover them with lemon juice, marveling at the blistered, crunchy results. I’ve even learned how to use my pressure cooker to shave off some cook time.
But here is the way Tim likes green beans best, the way he grew up eating them throughout a childhood lived five hours east of mine: Italian-style, soft and wilty, submerged in chopped tomatoes and infused with garlicky oil. It’s the way his mom made them, and the way her mom made them before her.
Tim first made Italian green beans like this for me after I moved to Nashville, in those early months when we lived 20 minutes – instead of eight hours – away from each other and could make dinner together every night.
While most nights we worked side by side, Tim chopping vegetables while I worked over the stove, on that first night when we shared these green beans, he did all the work.
I remember a large, deep skillet on his stove and the aroma of sauteing garlic floating from the kitchen to the living room.
I remember waiting a while.
Mostly, I remember eating a full plate of these myself, alongside slices of toast if I remember correctly, thinking this man sitting next to me was full of information and surprises, and that he was someone from whom I wanted to learn.
To many people who knew me before I met Tim, the way my life has gone in the years since I met him has sometimes seemed like a whirlwind of new things.
In the first couple of years, in fact, some loving friends even wondered if this new man in my life might be changing things too much.
It’s a hard thing to explain, to people who aren’t changing with you when you switch something big and obvious – be it career, location, relationship, school, or clothing choices – that in some ways we are all always changing. And that even though a certain change seems Big, it’s necessary.
In life, there are big steps like moving to Nashville, and then there are small steps, like starting a newsletter or choosing a new type of flour or writing in a journal every day. But all of these steps are always changing us, always moving us one way or another. We are rarely static.
Today, from the perspective gained after living in Tennessee for quite awhile, building my craft, and growing in my marriage to my best friend, working together at our dining room table and eating favorite dishes like these green beans for dinner, all I feel is thankful.
How blessed am I, to have this person who researches olive oil for fun and experiments with einkorn doughnut recipes on a Friday morning, who reminds me to find pleasure in the smallest, silliest daily routines?
These years, while filled with ups and downs, have been some of my best.
And whenever we need them, we can always sit down to a plate of these green beans.
Tim’s grandma would explain this recipe by saying something like, “Saute a little garlic in oil with tomatoes and green beans.”
And really, while the directions below are more detailed and specific, complete with all of the measurements and details we jotted down as we cooked, her basic instructions aren’t bad.
The most important thing to remember with recipes like this one is that they’re less about precision and more about a general idea – which, for the record, is exactly what makes recipes like this one so easy to like and enjoy.Print
You will love these sauteed Italian-style green beans with tomatoes and garlic. The easy recipe can be prepared with fresh or frozen vegetables.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) diced tomatoes, chopped fresh or canned
- 24 ounces (1 1/2 pounds) fresh or frozen green beans
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep frying pan on the stove.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant while stirring occasionally, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Stir in tomatoes and cook down for about 5 minutes, until they have broken down a bit and have formed a chunky sauce, stirring occasionally.
- Add green beans and stir to coat them with the tomato mixture.
- Simmer covered over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes if using fresh green beans (25-35 minutes if using frozen), until the beans are softened and tender crisp.
- Stir in salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper as desired. Serve immediately.
- Category: Vegetables
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Side Dish
Keywords: green beans, Italian, tomatoes, garlic
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mince Garlic, Dice Tomatoes, Trim Green Beans, And Measure Remaining Ingredients
Peel and mince three cloves of garlic. I love to use my garlic press for this to get it done quickly.
Trim the green beans, if using fresh.
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.
Step 2 – Cook Garlic and Tomatoes
In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have broken down a bit and have formed a chunky sauce, stirring occasionally.
Step 3 – Cook Green Beans
Stir in the green beans until they are coated with the tomato mixture.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes if using fresh green beans, or 25 to 35 minutes if you are using frozen. The beans should be crisp tender when they are done.
Stir in the salt and pepper. Give it a taste, and season with additional salt and pepper, as desired.
What About Canned Green Beans?
This recipe calls for fresh or frozen green beans. Often, I’m asked whether canned green beans can be used as a substitute in recipes.
My answer is usually no.
Canned green beans tend to fall apart, because they are softer than frozen or fresh green beans. You’ll end up with mush at the end of this recipe, so my best advice is to stick with the fresh kind if you can, or give frozen a whirl if that’s what you have on hand.
Crazy for green beans? Here are some more recipes from Foodal that you should definitely try:
Do you prefer to use fresh or frozen green beans for recipes like this one? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to rate the recipe after you give it a try.
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on February 5, 2013. Last updated July 20, 2020. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.