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Green Beans in Tomato Sauce


Green beans in tomato sauce is a classic recipe from home. Every time I make it, I see my Neapolitan grandmother in her flowered apron with a bushel of beans spread out on newspaper on the kitchen table. One by one she trimmed them and piled them into a large colander. She used green beans in so many ways, beans with mint, olive oil and vinegar for a salad was a favorite, as was this dish of beans mixed with homemade tomato sauce.


1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

2 cups hot prepared tomato sauce


Rinse the beans and put them into a soup pot. Add the salt and cover the beans with cold water.

Bring them to a boil and cook them just until a small knife is easily inserted; they should remain al dente.

Drain the beans and transfer them to a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the beans, stir well and serve.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup cubed mozzarella cheese to the beans before mixing with the sauce.


MAKES 9 1/2 - 10 CUPS

Canned tomato sauce will never measure up to homemade, a relatively simple undertaking that is much less costly than buying jarred types, which are too full of insipid dried herbs, and high in sodium and preservatives. If you want to make fresh tomato sauce, consider using plum varieties such as Roma or San Marzano for their sweetness and meatiness. If you are using canned plum tomatoes, choose those that are imported from Italy. Cherry tomatoes, known as pomodorini in Italy, can also be used; this is a common practice in Puglia. In addition to the tomatoes, use a good extra virgin olive oil that is not too fruity, or it will overwhelm the tomato flavor. The rest of the ingredients are the cook's whim; some begin with a battuto, a finely minced combination of celery, onion, garlic, and carrots. These are the odori, or flavor enhancers, which are cooked first in the olive oil before adding the tomatoes. Others sauté only onions and garlic in olive oil, then add tomatoes, fresh basil, salt, pepper, sometimes a pinch of sugar, and a little red wine. To make a spicy tomato sauce, hot red pepper, either fresh or in dried flake form, is added.

An important thing to remember is that meatless tomato sauce does not need to cook for very long, 15 minutes at most. Tomato sauces that simmer for hours usually have the addition of a tough cut of meat such as round steak, spare ribs, or a combination of meats that is then served as the secondo, the second course.

The following recipe is a basic all-purpose meatless sauce. It can be made in large quantities and frozen for months. Use the sauce on pasta, with meat, fowl, or fish, and for pizza and calzones.

5 pounds ripe plum tomatoes or three 28-ounce cans crushed plum tomatoes with their liquid
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2/3 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fine sea salt or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 large sprigs fresh basil

If using fresh tomatoes, core them, cut them into coarse chunks, and puree them in a food processor, blender, or food mill until smooth. Strain the fresh of canned tomatoes through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the onion over a medium heat, stirring, until soft.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it becomes soft. Do not let the garlic brown or an acid taste will be imparted in the sauce. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

This recipe is from MANGIA PASTA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1998.


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