Caserecce e fagiolini (Pasta and Green Beans)

Weeknight dinners at our house much of the time revolve around pasta and vegetables. They quick and easy, and the combinations are almost endless. For some reason, however, the combination of pasta and green beans is not a particularly common one in Italian cooking, with the notable exception of trennette al pesto, which often includes green beans and potatoes. Perhaps it has something to do with the elongated shape of green beans, which can make them a bit awkward to pair with most pasta shapes

Nevertheless, green beans and pasta can actually get along famously. There is a type of pasta (see photo left) variously called caserecce, gemelli or strozzapreti, which have something of a similar shape to green beans, so they pair nicely. And green beans get along famously with tomatoes, as in the classic fagiolini in umido, so it doesn’t take too much of a leap of the imagination to put the three elements—pasta, green beans and tomatoes—together for a tasty treat.

Make a tomato sauce beginning with a soffritto of chopped onion sweated in olive oil along with a bit of garlic. When the onion is translucent and soft, add some crushed canned tomatoes (or chopped fresh tomatoes in season) along with a good handful of fresh mint leaves (or basil) and, if you like, some red pepper flakes—not too many, just enough to add a hint of spiciness. Allow the tomatoes to simmer until reduced to a saucy consistency, about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, parboil your green beans, trimmed and cut into sections about the same length as the pasta, in salted water until cooked just crisp-tender, and add to the tomato sauce to simmer and insaporire until the beans are quite tender. In the same water in which the beans cooked, cook your pasta al dente and add to the green bean and tomato sauce. Mix well, let it simmer for a minute or two for the flavors to meld and the pasta to absorb a bit of the sauce, then serve. If you like, fold in some pecorino cheese that you will have grated with the large holes of a four-sided grater, so they emerge as long strips, about the same length as the pasta and green beans.

NOTES: Caserecce are really the perfect pasta shape to go with green beans, and are fairly easy to find, but you can use other ‘semi-long’ pasta shapes such as trofie, sedani or stringozzi. Also note that, confusingly, the term strozzapreti is used to describe a number of different types of pasta, so check the shape before you buy.

If you are pressed for time, you can also cook your green beans together with the pasta rather than separately, then add both to the tomato sauce. The result will be slightly less ‘beany’ (since the green beans will not have time to lend their flavor to both the cooking water and the sauce) but still quite good.

Measurements for such a homely dish don’t matter too much, but the general rule of thumb: a 1:1 ratio by weight between dry pasta and the condimento (ie, the green beans) applies very well to this dish. As for the tomato sauce, it is pretty much up to you. I don’t use too much tomato—perhaps half a small can for 200g (1/2 lb.) of pasta, so as not to overwhelm the taste of the green beans.

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13 Responses to “Caserecce e fagiolini (Pasta and Green Beans)”

  1. 24 April 2010 at 10:58 #

    Thanks, folks!

  2. 22 April 2010 at 04:39 #

    This is sending me to the market for beans!

  3. 22 April 2010 at 00:35 #

    This looks like a wonderful dish Frank. Bravo!

  4. 21 April 2010 at 18:47 #

    never thought of pasta with green beans … but after reading this, I can just imagine how wonderful the taste

  5. 21 April 2010 at 16:02 #

    Love your comment about measurements. Find it ever so hard to write recipes with measurements. 100 per cent of the time I follow my taste and instinct.
    This is the perfect dish for me, basic Italian flavours, good seasonal vegetables and pasta, cant get any better than that!!!

  6. 21 April 2010 at 15:36 #

    What a delicious looking pasta dish. That would be great for our meatless night.

  7. 21 April 2010 at 09:37 #

    You are SO my favorite person right now. This is awesome! I love making my own pasta! This looks delish :-)

  8. 21 April 2010 at 03:15 #

    You have saved me with this! I could not figure out what to serve for supper and was getting desperate — thanks!!

  9. 20 April 2010 at 22:10 #

    I never had pasta with green beans, but I am intrigued now, this sounds like something I would love.

  10. 20 April 2010 at 21:59 #

    Mmmm, this dish looks superb! Cheers~

  11. 20 April 2010 at 20:12 #

    This looks delightful! I really need to try making my own pasta one of these days.

  12. 20 April 2010 at 18:38 #

    Looks perfect any night of the week!

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