Polpettone di fagiolini e patate

Frankantipasti, contorno, Liguria, primi piatti18 Comments

Polpettone di fagiolini e patate

Potatoes and green beans are a classic combination in Italian cookery and most especially in the cooking of the region of Liguria in northwest Italy. Think of pesto genovese, which traditionally includes green beans and potato along with the pasta. Then there’s green bean and potato salad, a summer staple on Italian tables. This week’s recipe for polpettone di fagiolini e patate, a kind of green bean and potato loaf/casserole, is yet another riff to this iconic pairing.

This easy and carefree dish is made with a few humble ingredients: boiled and finely chopped green beans mixed with mashed potatoes, eggs and grated cheese, along with that most Ligurian of fresh herbs, marjoram, then baked in the oven until golden brown.

Polpettone di fagiolini e patate is incredibly versatile. Simple as it is, you can serve your polpettone as an elegant sformato as pictured here. The green bean and potato mixture is baked in a loaf pan then unmolded onto a serving platter for slicing. This version would be a fine way to start a meal, as an alternative to the usual pasta or rice, or as a vegetarian main course. More commonly, though, you double-down on its homeyness and serve your polpettone family style directly from a baking dish. This homey version typically serves as a side dish.

So basically you can serve polpettone di fagiolini e patate as any course in an Italian meal other than dessert! Plus, since it is best served at room temperature, it’s an ideal make-ahead dish for a dinner party, buffet or picnic.

Any way you slice, it, a polpettone di fagiolini e patate is a tasty treat. One well worth adding to your repertoire.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 500g (1 lb) green beans, trimmed
  • 500 (1 lb) potatoes (or more, see Notes)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 50-75g (2-3 oz) freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • a sprig of fresh marjoram, finely minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a scrape of nutmeg (optional)

For baking:

  • olive oil or butter
  • breadcrumbs

Directions

Boil the trimmed green beans in well salted water until tender. Drain, run briefly under cold water and let cool. When the green beans have fully cooled, cut them into very short lengths, about as long as they are wide.

Boil the potatoes, unpeeled, until soft. Drain, run under cold water and let them cool. When they have cooled off enough to handle, peel them with a paring knife. Then purée them in a food mill, using the large holes, over a large mixing bowl.

Add the chopped up green beans to the bowl, along with the eggs, parmigiano-reggiano, marjoram, salt and pepper and nutmeg if using. Mix everything together well until well amalgamated. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Take a loaf pan and grease the inside well with olive oil or butter. Coat generously with breadcrumbs.

Pour the green bean and potato mixture into the pan, leveling it out with a spatula. Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil or dot with butter.

Bake in a moderately hot (190C/375F) oven for 30-45 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned on top. (To test doneness, insert a paring knife to see if it comes out clean.)

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool to just slightly warm or (even better) room temperature. Unmold onto an oval dish and serve in slices.

Polpettone di fagiolini e patate

Notes

For the more traditional “family style” version of polpettone di fagiolini e patate, use a baking dish instead of a loaf pan. Serve your polpettone directly from the baking dish. In this case, you can use a fork to decorate the top of your polpettone, running it across the top to create decorative patterns.

The ratio of green bean to potato can vary from recipe to recipe. I like the 1:1 ratio given here, but you can add more potato, up to a 1:2 ratio for a “poor man’s” version of the dish.

There are also different ways to treat the green beans. In some versions of polpettone di fagiolini e patate, the green beans are mashed with fork rather than chopped. In others (including Marcella Hazan’s) they are puréed in the food mill. Yet others have you chop them roughly in a food processor. Personally I like the more interesting texture and pretty speckled appearance that hand chopping provides.

The amount of egg can also vary, depending on how firm you’d like your polpettone. (And on the size of your eggs.) For the sformato version shown here, I like to add 3 eggs to make sure the polpettone is firm enough for slicing. For a family style version served out of a baking dish, you can use just 2 if you prefer.

In some versions of polpettone di fagiolini e patate, the green beans are sautéed in butter or olive oil, with minced onion, shallot or garlic, for extra flavor. The dish is plenty tasty without this extra step, but it does bring the dish up a notch. If, on the other hand, you want to save yourself a little work, you can boil the green beans and potatoes together. Fish out the green beans when they’re done, then let the potatoes continue to cook until they’re soft.

Popettone di fagiolini e patate

Ligurian Green Bean and Potato Loaf

Ingredients

  • 500g 1 lb green beans trimmed
  • 500g 1 lb potatoes or more, see Notes
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 50-75g 2-3 oz freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • a sprig of fresh marjoram finely minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a scrape of nutmeg optional

For baking

  • olive oil or butter
  • breadcrumbs

Instructions

  • Boil the trimmed green beans in well salted water until tender. Drain, run briefly under cold water and let cool. When the green beans have fully cooled, cut them into very short lengths, about as long as they are wide. 
  • Boil the potatoes, unpeeled, until soft. Drain, run under cold water and let them cool. When they have cooled off enough to handle, peel them with a paring knife and purée them in a food mill, using the large holes, over a large mixing bowl. 
  • Add the chopped up green beans to the bowl, along with the eggs, parmigiano-reggiano, marjoram, salt and pepper and nutmeg if using. Mix everything together well until well amalgamated. Taste and adjust for seasoning. 
  • Take a loaf pan and grease the inside well with olive oil or butter. Coat generously with breadcrumbs. 
  • Pour the green bean and potato mixture into the pan, leveling it out with a spatula. Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil or dot with butter. 
  • Bake in a moderately hot (190C/375F) oven for 30-45 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned on top. (To test doneness, insert a paring knife to see if it comes out clean.) 
  • Remove the pan from the oven and let cool to just slightly warm or (even better) room temperature. Unmold onto an oval dish and serve in slices. 

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18 Comments on “Polpettone di fagiolini e patate”

  1. Hi Frank, I just spent 3 weeks in Bologna learning some Italian. While I was there, the class started talking about Italian cooking. I mentioned that I absolutely love the website of Memorie di Angelina. The 30 year old English guy next to me in class popped up and said that was the website he consulted when he wanted Italian recipes too. Small world…

  2. What a perfect end-of-summer dish, Frank. We’re still getting great green beans in the farmers market (and decent potatoes, too), so I’m hoping to make this sometime in the upcoming week. This is something we will definitely serve as a vegetarian entrée.

  3. Very tasty. I was making lamb shanks for tonight’s dinner and this recipe became my side dish. Perfect! Thank you Frank.

  4. Scouting around for a recipe with vegetables while I am in Italy, this popped into my email. I added a sauteed onion and some garlic. The result was almost sweet. So delicious! The potatoes were sweet and the green beans were sweet, something I can only attribute to the freshness and quality of the ingredients here in Italy. I used regular potatoes from a national grocery store (so nothing special) and green beans from the market (very fine like French beans). Maybe I didn’t buy the right product but the breadcrumbs (pangrattato) were very, very crunchy – almost like seeds. I will explore if they have a different version of breadcrumbs that are softer, closer to to the breadcrumbs I know in the US or Panko. If you have any ideas of another translation for “breadcrumbs”, I would appreciate it (kind of hard to explain in my broken Italian a product they may never have heard of to an Italian).

    1. Glad you liked it, Ingrid! In my experience Italian breadcrumbs are generally more or less comparable to those you can find in the US. Might have simply been the batch you happen to get. Perhaps you could explain you want fine breadcrumbs “pane grattugiato fino“? They should be less crunchy.

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