Fagiolini con Pomodoro, Aglio e Basilico

Green Beans with Tomato, Garlic, and Basil

Early in the summer, when basil’s aroma is at its freshest, green beans are young and tender, and the first ripe tomatoes make scarlet pyramids at the vegetable stand, this is the kind of dish one’s thoughts turn to. The beans are cooked entirely in the tomatoes’ juices so their cool, vegetal flavor does not boil away in water, and, while they become tender, they retain a satisfying degree of firmness. I have had this as a vegetable dish and as a pasta sauce, and I was equally happy with both. When using it to sauce pasta, choose a firm-bodied tubular factory pasta such as penne or rigatoni.


  • 1 pound very ripe fresh tomatoes, or 1 cup canned Italian peeled plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice ( pounds fresh or cups canned if using as a pasta sauce)
  • pounds green beans
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons if using as a pasta sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic chopped not too fine (1 tablespoon if using as a pasta sauce)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves


  1. If using fresh tomatoes, rinse them in cold running water and drop them into a pot of boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about a minute, then drain and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them up in large pieces.
  2. Snap off the ends of the green beans and rinse the beans in cold water.
  3. Choose a sauté pan with a lid that can later accommodate all the green beans. Put in the olive oil and garlic. Turn on the heat to medium and sauté the garlic until it becomes colored a pale gold.
  4. Add the tomatoes, turn up the heat, and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes.
  5. Add the green beans, turn down the heat to medium, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are tender but firm. If, when the beans are done, the juices in the pan are watery, remove the beans with a, slotted spoon or spatula, turn up the heat, and boil away excess liquid. Then return the beans to the pan, mix in the basil leaves, and serve.