Italian Green Beans with Potatoes

Some people love green beans.  I never understood the appeal.   They are a rather plain vegetable in flavor and certainly no nutritional dynamo.  That said, it bothers me to not embrace and celebrate a veggie especially one as popular as green beans.  It feels like a personal challenge.  “How can I learn to love the green bean?”

However, after years of persistent searching and experimenting, I discovered several recipes which have changed my mind about green beans.  Discovering Romano beans (also known as the Italian or pole bean) was perhaps the biggest breakthrough in my quest to embrace this humble little pod.    The flavor is essentially the same as the regular green bean but the texture sets it apart.  Thick and meaty, these beans can stand up to cooking techniques that require more heat and time.  I have yet to find them anywhere but at the farmers market in the summer and early fall.

Italian Green Beans and Potatoes
Recipe type: Side dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6 servings
  • 2 medium all-purpose potatoes like Yukon gold, peeled and cubed into 1” pieces
  • 1.25 lb. Romano beans, chopped into ½ inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil and parsley
  • Salt & pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon
  1. In a large pot, boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes (While the potatoes boil, you can blanch the tomatoes in the same boiling water in order to remove the skins.)
  2. To the same pot, add the chopped Romano beans in with the potatoes and boil another 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, cook the tomatoes in olive oil with the garlic on medium-low heat.
  4. Once cooked, drain the potatoes and green beans and add to the skillet with the tomatoes, Turn the heat to high and sauté for 2 more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat; add salt and pepper to taste along with the fresh herbs and lemon juice.

Preserve it:  Buy extras when they are at the peak of season.  Don’t wait too late in the season when they could be tougher with pronounced strings. That is, by the way, why they call them string beans—they have a string which had to be removed.  Actually, most cultivars are bred stringless eliminating that little annoyance.

Blanch them a pound at a time.  Bring a large pot with a tight fitting lid to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile, prepare the beans by cutting them into 1 inch pieces. Add them to the boiling water and place the lid on the pot.  Begin timing immediately—4 minutes.  After 4 minutes, remove them from the water and submerge in ice water.   Once cool, place them in freezer bags in portions that you would want to cook in.  Remove as much air as possible and label.  For the best quality, use within a year.

Store it:  To keep green beans in the fridge for up to a week,  don’t wash them until you are ready to use them.  Place them in a paper bag.  Place the paper bag in a plastic bag and finally place the bag in the warmest part of the fridge.  Beans are prone to frost damage in a cold fridge.

Cooking with Kids: I use kitchen shears to snip off the green bean tops and tails. It’s much easier than snapping them. Snapping takes me back to memories from my childhood of sitting on the back picnic table snapping a shopping bag of beans when I’d rather be swimming. Kids can easily do this task and perhaps happily, if you give them scissors and limit it to a pound at a time. They can also use their scissors to chop the herbs. Other possible kid-friendly tasks in this recipe: Wash and squeeze the lemon juice. Crush and peel the garlic. I have them use a meat tenderizer and a plastic cutting board or the bottom-end of a thick plastic cup for this task. I have my 6 year old use a peeler to peel the potatoes. Anything that involves a real kitchen tool is okay with her. Take the time to show your little one how to do it safely.

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