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Romano Beans with Tomatoes (Fagioli a Corallo in Umido)

In Italian, fagioli usually refers to beans removed from a pod, such as white cannellini beans, while fagiolini have an edible pod, such as green beans. Yet it seems to bother no one that the long, flat, completely edible romano beans used in this recipe go by both names, fagioli a corallo and fagiolini a corallo, with a slight preference for the former in the markets of Rome. Nor does anyone explain the corallo, which means “coral,” though it may reflect the fact that the beans turn reddish when left to dry on the plant.

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 green onions, white portion only, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 lb. very ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced, or 1 can (14 oz.) plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juices 
  • 1 small dried red chili (optional) 
  • 1 lb. romano beans or green beans, ends trimmed 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional) 

Directions:

In a saucepan large enough to hold the beans, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the green onions and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chili, increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes reduce slightly, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the beans and season with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the beans are very tender, about 30 minutes. Check frequently and add 2 Tbs. hot water if the sauce looks dry. (The dish can be prepared up to this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated, and then reheated gently the next day. It will taste even better the second day.)

Transfer the beans to a warmed serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).