A Favorite Old World Recipe (one of many!)
Recipe Redux has asked us for our favorite family vintage side dish this month. Well, my family’s Italian string beans are the bomb. In fact, in wouldn’t be Thanksgiving or Christmas without them. They are so sensational, the Marinelli table gives them their own course, following the peaches in wine and the Italian wedding soup – all passed down for many generations.
My great-aunt, Aunt Virginia, made these beans famous to my generation. Learning from her mom, my great-grandmother, she made them as long as I can remember until she passed in 2003. Then, my grandmother took the charge until she passed in 2009. Now, it usually falls to me.
Italian string bean recipe? As with all of Gram’s cooking, you learned to create Italian string beans from feel and flavor. Because, hey, you never knew if you would be making 4 lbs or 8 3/4 lbs of beans. Would there be 36 or 52 people walking through the door on Easter Sunday? What good would a recipe be? Better to learn the balance of flavors to achieve. Then you’d know how to make them taste awesome, no matter how much you made, or how in season your ingredients were. Simple, flavorful, and balanced – my favorite Italian cooking.
This philosophy makes sense to me. I’m grateful it’s my foundation of cooking. But I also value having a recipe as a starting point.
I Did It! Well, I Tried…
Last summer as I was making these beans for my nephew’s birthday party, I decided to measure out how much I used of each ingredient. Wa-la, generations later, hundreds of pounds of Italian string beans eaten, finally, a Marinelli Italian string bean recipe. As I would warn with any recipe, it’s not exact, it’s never perfect. I adjust seasoning based on how it tastes, just like Gram and Aunt Virginia taught me, and I encourage you to do the same. Maybe you like less vinegar, or more salt, or more mint. Go for it. Make it yours.
From my great grandmother to you, I share a foundation for this fabulous vintage side dish. I hope you enjoy!
Italian String Bean Recipe: Give it a Try!
My Great Grandmother’s Italian String Beans
- 3 lbs green beans washed and cleaned
- 6 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 1½ tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp sea salt
Make the Marinade
- Mix the olive oil, vinegar, grated garlic, and mint in a sealable jar.
- Shake well and let sit for at least 8 hours, overnight is best.
Cook the Beans
- Steam or boil the string beans until tender.
- Drain well. Let dry. If I have excess water on them, I pat them dry with towels, or set them under a ceiling fan.
- Once beans are room temperature and dry, add the marinade and salt. Mix well.
- Let beans sit with marinade for a couple hours before serving. Mix and taste. Adjust seasoning to your taste. I often find I need a pinch more salt, but it depends on the beans and your taste.
Tips to making the best marinade:
- Grate your garlic: Grated garlic adds more garlic flavor using less garlic. It will permeate the marinade and dissolve into it, eliminating chunks of raw garlic so you don’t have to strain your marinade.
- High quality extra virgin olive oil: Use the good stuff. This is not the place to skimp. You’ll taste it.
- Fresh dried mint: Dried herbs should be replaced every 6-12 months. I love stores that carry dried spices and herbs in bulk where I can buy small amounts often. My Mom is infamous for having spices for like, 6 years, and then can’t understand why 1 TBS of a dried spice/herb doesn’t taste like anything. If your mint is old TOSS IT! (sorry Mom, love you!)
- Let your marinade sit: We always let it sit overnight. One crazy Christmas Eve, I didn’t make the marinade until 3 am, but it still sat for 8 hours before we dressed the beans. Dinner wasn’t until 3 pm. Whew!