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Italian Green Beans and Potatoes is sure to appeal to even the picky vegetable eaters around your table! It’s hearty, simple and classic Italian-American! And, you might be surprised to find out the secret to what makes it so good!
This recipe transports me right back to my childhood, growing up in The Garden State. Hearty and simple with few ingredients, its roots scream cucina povera, the ‘peasant cooking’ of Italy’s southern regions and my ancestors.
Technically called “romano” or “pole” beans (names I only learned of a couple of years ago!), I grew up having these beans every summer, late in the season. My Aunt Mary, that lived further south in Jersey in the middle of farmland, always ensured we had a large supply of them when in season. They were referred to as “Italian Green Beans” by everyone in my family, so I assumed that was their proper name for most of my life!
“Regular” Green Beans . . .
Quite honestly, I have never been a big fan of regular green beans–I find that they are more often than not undercooked and under-seasoned. But, I have always loved Italian Green Beans. Their mild and sweet taste is very similar to regular string beans, but it’s the texture, size and shape that sets them apart. Thick and meaty, and wide and flat, these beans can stand up to longer cooking times and that is how we always prepared them–over-cooked and softer than what most people are comfortable with.
There were basically three ways that we prepared these beans: sautéed w/lots of garlic & olive oil, sautéed w/lots of garlic & olive oil & potatoes, & “stewed” w/tomatoes, lots of garlic, olive oil &, you guessed it, potatoes. Sometimes, we would serve them at room temperature with a little vinegar.
No matter what the ingredient combination was, there was always one thing in common–the beans were intentionally overcooked, which, despite it not being very “chef-y” of me, is actually how I prefer many of my veggies.
It’s a texture thing. And, it’s an Italian thing. And, it’s the secret to this dish! Try out this recipe and see for yourself!
To make Italian Green Beans and Potatoes, we will be using the following ingredients:
- Romano Beans (aka, Pole Beans): The main ingredient and the most difficult to find! These are like a larger, flatter green bean that I have only found in farmers’ markets in mid-late summer (on the East Coast). Some people have told me that they are available frozen, but I am not familiar with those! (Frozen beans would work in this recipe.) In any case, try to find them if you can, but, if you can’t, regular green beans are a great and perfectly acceptable substitute.
- All-Purpose Potatoes: You really can use any type of potato that you want in this dish, but there are differences. The best potato to use is one with low starch and high moisture, which is your basic red or white (thin-skinned) potato. Think potato salad and a potato that will hold up well and not crumble after being cooked. Yukon gold is a great option.
The Aromatics . . .
- Yellow Onion: The “all-purpose onion” and the one I use in almost every recipe when I am sautéing. Its flavor has a nice balance of astringency and sweetness. (NOTE: “Spanish Onions” are a type of yellow onion that is slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.)
- Garlic: No explanation necessary! Other than to say, chopped, minced or thinly sliced all work well – just depends on what you feel like doing! And, feel free to add more or use less based on your personal preference.
- Olive Oil: We will use olive oil in two different ways in this recipe. First, to sauté the onions, garlic, beans and potatoes. For this, there is no need to use your most expensive bottle. The second way that we will use olive oil in this recipe (and how I finish many of my recipes) is as a drizzle at the very end of the cooking process and just before serving. For this, you want to use the really good, extra-virgin olive oil that adds a complementary flavor to the dish, be it fruity, peppery or grassy.
- Salt, Black Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper: Always to your taste and always freshly ground black pepper, if possible!
A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.
Step-By-Step, Pro-Tips included!
Here are the main steps for how to make savory Italian Green Beans and Potatoes:
- Prep and measure all ingredients. Be sure to rinse all vegetables and scrub the potatoes.
- PRO-TIP: Once the potatoes are cut, store them in cold water until ready to cook, otherwise, they will start to turn brown. Be sure to drain them before adding them to the recipe.
- Cook the beans in boiling, salted water until soft. Remove and set aside, saving the water for the potatoes.
- PRO-TIP: Use about 1 teaspoon salt for every quart of water and bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. The water will boil a little more strongly for a second when you do so, and this will ensure that the salt is dissolved immediately. If you add the salt to the pot when the water is cold, it may just deposit on the bottom of the pot.
- Cook the potatoes in the same water until soft.
- PRO-TIP: Save 1-2 cups starchy potato water for later in the cooking process.
- Lightly caramelize the onions in heated oil, then add the garlic to the onions and sauté.
- PRO-TIP: Add the crushed red pepper in the pan along with the garlic. Heating the crushed red pepper brings out its oils and heat more, thereby flavoring the overall dish better than if just added at the end of the cooking process.
- Combine the boiled beans and potatoes with the onions and garlic, mix well and continue to cook the mixture until desired softness. Add some starchy potato water if more moisture is needed and cover if cooking a bit longer.
- NOTE: For this dish, overcooking the vegetables is preferred!
- Once the beans and potatoes are really soft and cooked to your desired doneness, season the dish with salt and black pepper, then drizzle it with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil at the very end to add a final touch of flavor and richness.
- Serve it warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Variations for Green Beans and Potatoes
There are a few different ways to prepare and serve Italian Green Beans and Potatoes. Here are some of the most traditional and popular:
- Add Tomatoes: This is, by far, the most popular variation to this dish! After the garlic is sautéed, add 1-2 cups ftomatoes to the pan and let it cook for about 5-10 minutes. Then, fold in the beans and potatoes.
- Increase Protein: If you’d like to make this dish heartier and more of a main meal for the meat eaters around your table, fold in some cooked chicken, sausage or meatballs at the end just to heat them through. All would be delicious additions! I have even heard of people adding pepperoni or mortadella chunks to this dish!
- Add Fresh Herbs: If you have some fresh basil on hand, add it to the finished dish at the same time as that last drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil for some additional freshness and brightness!
- Turn it into a Salad!: This is my favorite variation on this dish! Once the beans and potatoes are fully cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Then, mix in about 2-3 tsp white wine vinegar. Serve the dish cold or at room temperature.
- Add Cheese: The sharpness and saltiness of Pecorino Romano cheese makes almost anything better, in my humble opinion. Fold about 1/3 cup grated pecorino into the dish along with the final seasoning. Just be aware that you will likely need less salt in the dish if you use the pecorino.
What to Serve With Green Beans and Potatoes
Italian Green Beans and Potatoes is certainly a hearty vegetarian entrée in its own right. But, as a side, it goes really well with simple roasted meats and fish. I especially love it paired with a herby rotisserie or simple roasted chicken, grilled flank steak or pesto-crusted roasted salmon.
Kitchen Tools & Cookware for Green Beans and Potatoes
To make this Italian Green Beans and Potatoes recipe, you will need the following:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Multiple bowls to hold prep
- Cutting board with non-slip mat underneath (I use shelf liner)
- Sharp chef’s knife
- Vegetable brush
- Large (6-8 qt) pot for cooking vegetables
- Colander, large mesh strainer or spider for scooping out vegetables
- Wooden or silicon spoons, tongs
- 10″+ sauté pan or skillet
- Serving bowl or platter and serving utensils
More Great Recipes to Try
If you’ve tried this recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
Italian Green Beans and Potatoes
- 1 1/4 pounds romano beans, ends trimmed & beans cut in half
- 2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, rinse, scrubbed and cut into 1" chunks, stored in cold water until cooking
- 4-6 Tbsp olive oil (see NOTE below)
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 heaping TBSP chopped or thinly sliced garlic
- pinch crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper
- Prep all vegetables according to specifications above.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the beans. (See NOTE below.)
- Boil the beans for about 5 minutes or until they are soft. Remove & set aside, keeping the water for boiling the potatoes.
- Bring the pot of water back up to a boil, covering the pot if necessary. Then, add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Remove & set aside. Reserve 1-2 cups of the starchy potato water before discarding the rest of the water.
- While the vegetables are boiling, heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until they begin to lightly caramelize (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and continue to sauté another 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked beans and potatoes to the onions and mix well. Continue to cook the mixture until the beans are very soft, adding a bit of the starchy potato water if more moisture is needed and partially covering the pan.
- Once the beans are cooked to your desired doneness, season the dish with salt and pepper, then finish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Buon Appetito!
- Once the potatoes are cut, store them in cold water until ready to cook, otherwise, they will start to turn brown.
- Use about 1 teaspoon salt for every quart of water and bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. The water will boil a little more strongly for a second when you do so, and this will ensure that the salt is dissolved immediately. If you add the salt to the pot when the water is cold, it may just deposit on the bottom of the pot.
- Use a spider or large strainer to remove the beans from the boiling water, so that the water can then be used to cook the potatoes.
- There is no need to ‘shock’ the green beans in ice water to halt the cooking process, as the key to this dish’s deliciousness is actually overcooking the beans! So, do not be afraid to leave them in the water or sauté pan longer that you normally would.
- Be sure to reserve 1-2 cups of the starchy potato water for later in the cooking process.
- Add the crushed red pepper in the pan along with the garlic. Heating the crushed red pepper brings out its oils and heat more, thereby flavoring the overall dish better than if just added at the end of the cooking process.
- Once the beans and potatoes are combined with the onions, add some of the reserved starchy potato water if more moisture is needed when further cooking the dish. Remember, for this dish, overcooking the vegetables is preferred!
- Don’t forget to drizzle the finished dish with some high quality extra-virgin olive oil for an additional hit of flavor and richness.