Green Beans with a Little Red

It is so good to see green beans setting abundantly on the plants out in the garden. I love green beans—eat them raw in the garden; blanch them and dip them in pesto mayonnaise or garlicky aioli; steam them and eat with butter, salt and pepper; sauté them briefly in olive oil with a little chopped shallot; chop the leftovers and toss into salad; make dilly bean pickles.

And now, green beans Italian-style with a little garlicky tomato sauce, eaten warm or room temperature. Each summer, I host volunteers in the World-Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF) program, and my WWOOFers teach me a lot. One WWOOFer from 2017, Cris Larose, by name, came back this year for another three months, and, thank goodness, he likes to cook. Since he grew up in an Italian family, watching a grandmother and uncles who cooked, and spends three months every year near Florence, Italy, where he refreshes his familiarity with Italian cuisine, our household has been treated to some really lovely Italian dishes.

These fagiolini verde, green beans to you, are the latest. I have to tell you that it didn’t automatically occur to me to put tomato sauce on green beans. It is easy to do and makes a terrific side vegetable for almost anything. You can serve them warm or at room temperature; make them ahead and hold them for meal-time or put them together while a chicken roasts, or the steak grills.

You can use your own homemade tomato sauce or gussy-up pre-prepared and jarred pasta sauce. Cris cooked some of our new garlic in a little olive oil just until it was fragrant then added the tomato sauce, added a mere bit of red pepper flakes, reduced it so it was a little thicker, then spooned it on the green beans which he cooked in salted water until they were barely tender. That was all. So good.

Now I am thinking about when the tomatoes are finally ripe; I’ll chop them up and add them to the oil and garlic, heat them until they begin to soften and add that to the green beans. Maybe a little basil. Mmmm.

Green Beans with Garlic Tomato Sauce
  • 2-3 big handfuls of green beans
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • About a cup of tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop in the green beans, cook for about five minutes or until the beans are a bit tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauce pan, and sauté the garlic until it is a little soft.
  3. Add a cup or so of tomato sauce to the saucepan and cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Add salt, pepper and optional red pepper flakes.
  4. Drain the beans and add the sauce to them, tossing to coat them.
  5. Serve warm or room temperature.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.