Pile of Italian green beans.
Home » Italian Food » What Are Italian Green Beans And How To Make Them (Our Nonna’s Recipe)

What Are Italian Green Beans And How To Make Them (Our Nonna’s Recipe)

Last updated on June 28th, 2024

Are you looking for a new side dish to serve at picnics, outdoor barbeques or just to change things up at home on a weekday? This easy recipe for Italian green beans is for you.

Although harder to come by than normal green beans, it’s worth picking up Italian green beans if you see them. And if not, no worries, you can easily use regular string beans. 

Let’s take a look at:

  • what Italian green beans are
  • how we cook Italian green beans in Tuscany
  • how else you can use them in the kitchen

Italian Green beans are a great gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan side dish. They don’t need to be refrigerated, making them ideal for picnics or outdoor events.

What Are Italian Green Beans?

Hand holds large green bean above pile of green beans.

Italian green beans are a variety of large, flat green beans that are used in Italian cooking similarly to any other string bean.

They are about 8 inches long, about ½ inch wide and quite flat. The flavor is very similar to a regular green bean, making them pretty interchangeable. 

White and blue serving dish with green beans and tomato sauce. Spoon in the dish.

Typically, Italian green beans are slow cooked or stewed in a simple tomato sauce, sometimes flavored with bacon or guanciale, depending on the region in Italy. My recipe doesn’t use bacon but it can easily be added along with the soffritto

Italian Green Beans Ingredients  

Italian Green Beans

Pile of Italian green beans.

Use 2 pounds Italian green beans that have been cleaned and trimmed (ends cut off). Leave them whole, cut them in half or cut into 1 inch pieces. If you cannot find this variety of Italian green beans, feel free to use whatever kind of string beans are accessible to you.

Soffritto

top view of soffritto cut up of marble board with celery on left, chopped carrots in middle and onion chopped in a pile on the right.

To make an Italian soffritto, use 1 medium yellow onion, 1 carrot and 1 stalk celery, cut up finely. You can also use frozen soffritto.

Other Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1- 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional 
  • 8 basil leaves, chiffonade or torn by hand, optional

How To Make Italian Green Beans

Pot with finely chopped carrots, celery, and onions with garlic and oil.

Peel the carrot and chop finely with the onion and celery (this is known as a soffritto). In a large skillet, add the olive oil and saute the soffritto mixture on low heat until the onion is transparent and the vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Two minutes before cooking, add the garlic cloves and red pepper flakes, if using and cook for another two minutes. 

Hand holds large can of peeled tomatoes over pot with cooking chopped vegetables.

Add the canned tomatoes along with 1 cup water and season with pepper and salt. Break the canned tomatoes up with the back of your spoon. Simmer uncovered over low heat for a minimum of 20 minutes. Generally speaking, the longer you cook tomato sauce, the better it is. Meanwhile, clean and trim the Italian green beans, cutting them in half if need be to fit better in your skillet. Alternatively, you can cut the Italian green beans into 1 inch long pieces, making them bite size for easier serving. 

Pot of tomato sauce with green beans piled on top.

Add the green beans. Bring the pan back up to a simmer and cook covered until the green beans are tender, about 20 minutes being sure to turn the Italian green beans often so that they cook evenly. Add more water if the tomato sauce is too dry and it starts sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the beans are cooked through, turn the heat off, cover the pan and let rest for 10 minutes. 

Pot with green beans and tomato sauce.

Test for seasoning and remove the garlic cloves. Chiffonade or gently tear the basil and add to the pan. Serve immediately or serve at room temperature (best for hot summer months!). 

Italian Green Beans Variations And Substitutions 

Many Italian regions make this green bean recipe using bacon or guanciale for extra flavor. If you wish to do this, add a couple slices of bacon, sliced into thin strips with the onion, carrot and onion. 

This variety of Italian green beans can be difficult to find. If you want, use any kind of green beans, including wax beans (yellow beans) or other string beans in place of the Italian green beans (I don’t suggest using frozen beans for this recipe). 

How To Make Italian Green Beans In Half The Time

Jars of italian pomodoro sauce with lids on grey marble.
The homemade canned tomato sauce that I use if I am pressed for time

If you are pinched for time, you can make Italian green beans by using a pre-made or canned tomato sauce from your pantry. 

Simply add the tomato sauce to a skillet, bring to a simmer and add the Italian green beans. In this way, you cut the recipe time down to just the cooking time of the green beans. Add crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce and finish with basil, should you like. 

You can also use frozen soffritto, which can speed up the process as well. 

Make Your Own: Making homemade tomato sauce is really easy with my two recipes: Pomodoro Sauce Recipe – Authentic Tomato Sauce Straight From An Italian Kitchen or Fresh Pomodoro Sauce Recipe – An Italian Summer Tradition.

How To Serve Italian Green Beans

Hand holds white and blue serving dish with Italian green beans with tomato sauce.

Italian green beans are a hearty side dish that pair well grilled meats, sausages, main fish dishes and shellfish. 

Italians wouldn’t typically eat this dish as a main meal but it’s hearty enough to be served with fresh bread and some cheese or cured meats. There is a lot of extra tomato sauce that the beans are swimming in so be sure to mop it all up with some crusty bread!

My favorite dishes to serve with Italian green beans:

How To Store Italian Green Beans 

Italian green beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. These green beans can be frozen for up to three months and defrosted as long as the green beans (or any of the other ingredients) have not been previously frozen.

Pile of Italian green beans.

Italian Green Beans

Italian green beans are slow cooked or stewed in a simple tomato sauce.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • cup olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and left whole
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 lbs Italian green beans ends trimmed
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 8 leaves basil chiffonade or torn by hand, optional

Instructions
 

  • Peel the carrot and chop finely with the onion and celery (this is known as a soffritto). In a large skillet, add the olive oil and saute the soffritto mixture on low heat until the onion is transparent and the vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Two minutes before cooking, add the garlic cloves and red pepper flakes, if using and cook for another two minutes.
  • Add the canned tomatoes along with 1 cup water and season with pepper and salt. Break the canned tomatoes up with the back of your spoon. Simmer uncovered over low heat for a minimum of 20 minutes. Generally speaking, the longer you cook tomato sauce, the better it is. Meanwhile, clean and trim the Italian green beans, cutting them in half if need be to fit better in your skillet. Alternatively, you can cut the Italian green beans into 1 inch long pieces, making them bite size for easier serving.
  • Add the green beans. Bring the pan back up to a simmer and cook covered until the green beans are tender, about 20 minutes being sure to turn the Italian green beans often so that they cook evenly. Add more water if the tomato sauce is too dry and it starts sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the beans are cooked through, turn the heat off, cover the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Test for seasoning and remove the garlic cloves. Chiffonade or gently tear the basil and add to the pan. Serve immediately or serve at room temperature (best for hot summer months!).

Notes

Many Italian regions make this green bean recipe using bacon or guanciale for extra flavor. If you wish to do this, add a couple slices of bacon, sliced into thin strips with the onion, carrot and onion. 
This variety of Italian green beans can be difficult to find. If you want, use any kind of green beans, including wax beans (yellow beans) or other string beans in place of the Italian green beans (I don’t suggest using frozen beans for this recipe). 
How To Make Italian Green Beans In Half The Time:
If you are pinched for time, you can make Italian green beans by using a pre-made or canned tomato sauce from your pantry. 
Simply add the tomato sauce to a skillet, bring to a simmer and add the Italian green beans. In this way, you cut the recipe time down to just the cooking time of the green beans. Add crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce and finish with basil, should you like. 
You can also use frozen soffritto xx, which can speed up the process as well. 
Keyword authentic, easy, vegan, vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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