When most people (myself included) think of Italian style green beans, fagiolini in umido (green beans in tomato sauce) is likely to come to mind or perhaps fagiolini all’agro, a simple green bean salad. Here is a less well known but perfectly delicious dish from Lombardia that I recent came across while perusing a little cookbook called La cucina lombarda by Alessandro Molinari Pradelli: green beans simmered in cream. I can almost guarantee that once you try this, it will become a regular part of your repertoire!
Ingredients (for 4-6 servings)
1 kg (2 lbs.) green beans
A shallot, fine chopped
50g (3 Tbs) butter (or more if you’re feeling indulgent)
2 dl (3/4 cup) cream (or as much as you need)
Salt and pepper
A handful of parsley, finely chopped
Trim off the ends of your green beans, then plunge them into a big pot of well-salted boiling water. Cook them until they are quite al dente, remembering that they will cook some more later. This should take no more than 5 minutes or so, depending on the size and quality of the beans.
While the green beans are boiling away, gently sweat your chopped shallot in the butter in an ample skillet or sauté pan until soft but not browned.
Transfer the green beans from the boiling water right into the skillet and mix them well with the butter and shallot soffritto. [NB: If you like, you can 'refresh' the green beans in cold water before adding them to the skillet, which will help them retain their color, but being a bit lazy I often skip this step.] Raise the flame just a bit and let the green beans braise for a few minutes, stirring frequently, so they can absorb the flavors of the soffritto.
Now add your cream, enough to just about cover the beans. Season with salt, pepper and nice scrape of nutmeg. Raise the flame a bit more so that the cream bubbles fairly vigorously. Continue stirring from time to time, and simmer until the cream has thickened into a saucy consistency. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.
Mix in the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
NOTES: The great thing about this dish, as for any braised vegetable dish, is that you can use green beans that may have been around for a while without much trouble. That is, in fact, what I did this time and I can tell you the results were more than satisfactory.
This makes for a fine contorno for grilled meats, in particular. I would not serve it, on the other hand, with a braised meat dish. And I actually had it as a vegetarian lunch one day, with a nice chunk of crusty bread.