Dressed Up Green Beans & Tomatoes

One secret ingredient, and a light adornment of Parmesan, transform the humble green bean into the star of the plate.

Green beans are handy to have in the refrigerator. They keep for days, and can be cooked in a matter of minutes. There is nothing like fresh green beans from the garden, steamed, bathed with a bit of butter and sprinkled with a liberal dose of salt. My mom always saved her butter wrappers, and after draining the beans, she would nestle it on top to both butter them, and keep them warm.

As delicious as they can be dressed up, often they are more of an afterthought on the plate. The “something green” to balance things out, especially since you’ve already had broccoli two days in a row. If we don’t fuss with them at least a bit, they will offer little more than a yawn at the dinner table.

Even in the winter when we have to rely on imports from southern areas of the country, fresh green beans pack a lot of flavor and nutrition with which we can play. I’d love to use frozen local green beans that are not transported across the country, but I’ve never had a frozen green bean I liked, so I stick with organic imports from elsewhere.

More than a side dish

This recipe is a side dish plus a little more. A quick sauté of onion and garlic, a can of whole, peeled tomatoes, a pound of green beans, and 15 minutes of simmering time, and you have a base for supper. Yes, it can be served as a side, but add a piece of grilled chicken or poached fish and you have a whole meal. You can even poach the fish right in the simmering vegetables.

This recipe reminds me of a dish I used to eat a lot while dieting “low-carb.” It was pretty much green beans and tomatoes, and got to be pretty boring, but with just a few additions, it is something special.

Delicious and quick too

However you dress it up, it is a quick weeknight dinner!

In the summer, you can use fresh tomatoes in this dish of course, but the canned San Marzano (or style) tomatoes make quick work of this creation, and the flavor is lovely. I look for organic tomatoes, the brand I buy is grown and packed in California, but if you find some of the real thing imported from Italy, it is always a good bet.

Parmigiano Reggiano costs more than the domestic varieties of “parmesan” but its intense flavor goes a long way. Look for the traditional markings on the rind (which, of course, you are going to save for other uses!).

I don’t skimp on the Parmesan because it has tons more flavor than the domestic! It’s that simple. The more flavor, the less you have to use, so from a budget standpoint they are equal in my book, so go for the best. Imported Parmesan is identified by its marking as such on the rind, look for this distinction. Grate your own too, it will be fresher. Some of the pre-grated cheeses contain fillers to prevent clumping and this can affect texture and flavor.

And don’t throw out the rind! Tuck it in the freezer to pop into simmering tomato sauce to enhance the flavor. This is one of my secret ingredients!

The secret ingredient

But the main secret ingredient here? Anchovies! One of my favorite additions to many simple vegetable dishes. The flavor bomb they deliver is unique, and they melt away so you only have to warn those who are allergic to fish. The best secret ingredients are not visible, but they lend a certain Je ne sais quoi to the dish that makes it special.

Watch your timing on this. If a green bean is cooked only to the crisp side of “crisp-tender” they will lack flavor; if cooked too long, they will be mushy.

Any leftovers will taste even better on Day 2!

Dressed-up Green Beans and Tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 sweet onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 or 5 anchovy filets, roughly chopped

A sprinkle of crushed red pepper, optional

1 28-ounce can San Marzano style whole peeled tomatoes

1 lb. green beans, washed, dried, stem-end removed

Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Prep your vegetables. Prepare your beans, you can leave them whole, or cut them in half. Rinse off your anchovies, and chop them up roughly.

Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over medium high until softened, but not browned.

Make a little space in the center of the bottom of the pan and add the garlic and anchovy filets. Stir them up for a few seconds, then swirl them into the onions and cook for a couple more minutes, until beautifully  fragrant!

Add the tomatoes, and swirl a half cup of water in the can to remove any juice and add this to the pot. Stir well and simmer for a few more minutes.

Add the prepped green beans, mix them around, salt and pepper, then cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for ten minutes. Check the beans and seasoning at this point; you want them to be tender and flavorful, but not over cooked, and you will probably need a few more minutes. Cover again, and finish cooking.

Place on a serving platter or in a large bowl, and sprinkle with as much Parmesan as you like!

Add fish to the dish…

If you like, after the green beans have simmered for 10 minutes, nestle in a pound of cod or other white fish, cut into four pieces, replace the cover, and cook an additional 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, keep covered, and let sit another five minutes.

…Or top it with an egg

I know, we top everything with an egg these days, but a left-over dish of this topped with an egg makes a really quick supper or lunch!

© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen

Contact: dorothy@vintagekitchen.org


  1. iamagreatgram says:

    This sounds really good. I can almost smell it cooking.

    1. Thanks! It really does smell awfully good while it is cooking!

  2. I still have frozen garden beans and now I know what to do with them! Although no anchovies for me..lol Thank you!

    1. Ah come on!

  3. Absolutely delicious Dorothy. We are very lucky to always have these available to us in Australia. I enjoy beans but my husband not so much, but I think this recipe will have him enjoying them!

    1. Well, everyone in our family likes this Kathryn, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed! P.S. You can really make this about the cheese….

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