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.
I grew up in a family that ate green beans boiled, the same way we ate peas or carrots (and NOT the good kind!), alongside mashed potatoes and chicken dinners.
Sometimes my mom toasted slivered almonds to place on top, and there was a green bean casserole at every Thanksgiving meal, a welcome addition to the usual list of our favorite side dishes.
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
Italian-Style Green Beans
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
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.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- 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.
Dice twelve ounces of tomatoes with a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board, if using fresh.
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.
39 thoughts on “Italian-Style Green Beans: A Simple Savory Side”
My experience with green beans growing up was eating them in Filipino dishes. I was a green bean hog — I’d pile them on my plate shamelessly and wouldn’t leave much for anyone else. These green beans sound awesome. I think I’ll make them for dinner tonight. 🙂
A green bean hog! I love that description! No wonder I’ve always liked you…
I tried making Thai style stir fry green beans once and the results were not even close to restaurant like. This recipe has inspired me to try them again!
I don’t think I’ve ever had green beans that way, Ami, but now you’ve got me curious.
These are so similar to Greek green beans, though we usually add a fair amount of parsley. Normally I’m not one for softer vegetables, but I could eat green beans like this any day of the week.
Interesting, Elly! We tend to have parsley on hand (such a great, versatile herb), so I’ll have to try that sometime!
These look delicious! I love making green beans too, slow roasting them until they’re totally shrunken down and delicious. I love the addition of tomatoes here – beautiful colors!
This is my favourite way to eat green beans too – Tim is a man of excellent taste (if that wasn’t completely obvious already!)
Aw, I’m going to take that as a compliment, wink, wink. : )
It was meant as one although it may not have come across so well!
: ) You’re so sweet. Thanks, Kathryn!
These look delightful! I am a HUGE fan of Pomi tomatoes as well. They’re by far the best packaged tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.
A fellow POMI lover! We are such fans of their paper packaging and love knowing we don’t have to worry about BPA.
‘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 three years ago.’ – I love how close people, whether life-partners or friends, always bring us close to some foods and flavors we wouldn’t have tried or wouldn’t have loved so much hadn’t we met them. And yes, I wouldn’t forget the person who brought avocados into my life, either!
Me too, Adrianna.
I didn’t like green beans until I moved to France where they cook them completely differently than we do, leaving a large amount of crunch in them. I realized they were wonderful, smothering in scallions and butter.
I’m pretty sure France makes everything wonderful : ) Such a wonderful cuisine.
What lovely and true thoughts about changing! Always such a delight to read your posts, and these green beans sound sublime.
Thank you so much, Iris!
I couldn’t pin the pictures from the recipe (my new “to do” list method, sadly), but I am going to leave this tab open in my browser until I make this. Hopefully this week.
Is there a reason to use frozen instead of fresh green beans?
Kim, First off, thanks for telling me about the pictures situation. Looks like it’s some kind of Flickr bug because it’s happening all over the Internets. Hopefully will be fixed soon! Second – you could definitely use fresh instead, but we’re big fans of the large, cheap frozen bag of green beans from Trader Joe’s, and that’s what we’ve always used. : )
Thanks! Pinned away 🙂
You know I’ve never bought frozen green beans at TJs! I always go for the fresh. I’ll have to check out the frozen ones…
Ahhhh, I am so excited to try this recipe! Our local farmers market is year-round, but right now they have little more than turnips so we’re buying more produce from the store. Now that we’ve had a season or two of enjoying fresh-picked goodness I’m finding it a bit more difficult to find things in the fresh section that are appealing. Lately I’ve been wandering into the frozen section for green beans and bringing them home to serve up with a little butter. So far the littles are not impressed, but I know they will love these. They love anything with tomatoes 😀 Thank you!
Oh, Heather, I hope they will! : )
Another reason to like Tim. What a delicious recipe. As always, your writing is lovely.
Right? So many reasons to like him… : )
I meant to make these last night but ended up rushing out the door with hamburger patties, pickles and carrots sticks to eat for “dinner” on my way to meet friends. I’d so been looking forward to this recipe that I made it to go with our breakfast this morning . . . everyone cleaned their plates! Yum!
Hooray! I love hearing that! Green beans for breakfast — sounds right up my husband’s alley. : )
With a lovely fried egg plopped on top, I have done this and it is delicious…x
I learned of flat cut green beans with tomato sauce from a Lebanese co-worker. I thought it sounded really weird….until I tried it. In an attempt to re-create her dish, I found your recipe, and am making it for dinner tonite. Actually, I’ve already made it, and will just heat up when time to serve…so I can comment.
These are delicious! Thank you so much for telling your story, and sharing this recipe.
Oh, I’m so glad, Joyce! I hope you enjoy them! We actually just made green beans today, using a different method, telling ourselves we always make them the Italian way, and while this other method is good, I have to admit this slow cooked version is still my fav. : )
I enjoyed this a lot. i subbed bacon fat for olive oil and fresh for frozen and then tossed in some basil and oregano. In any case, it was a delicious change for us. Thanks for the inspiration!
Aw, so glad you enjoyed it!
So simple but so good! This is the perfect side any time of the year!
Exactly how I make them. And exactly how my mom and Nonna made them. My favorite way to cook green beans.
So glad I stumbled across this recipe a few months ago! We make it at least every other week now, and my family of 5 fights over it! (My boys are 11, 9, and 3, and I suppose our Italian genes must predispose them to loving the flavor profile). I think I’m going to have to start doubling it! (We used fresh green beans and canned tomatoes). Thanks for sharing it with the world!
Made this for cards potluck group. They were a huge hit!
Going to make these tomorrow can I get your blog I
Enjoy different types of food cannot wait to try these