A summer green bean is undoubtedly a thing of beauty, but it’s also short-lived. For those late-season or out-of-season green beans, forget blanching and slow-cook them into oblivion instead. Admittedly, the drab olive exterior is unfortunate, but don’t let looks fool you: The end result is disproportionately good—a silky bean with concentrated sweetness, no matter how tough or stringy it started out. The acidic tomatoes help the green beans retain their structure through the long cook, and a modest amount of lemon and cheese sharpen everything at the end. Think of this Italian classic as the summer counterpart to pasta e fagioli, the hearty soup featuring pasta and beans (often cannellini). It’s a hearty, vegetarian-friendly dish that’s easy on your wallet thanks to its reliance on a mix of seasonal produce and pantry staples. And if rent is due and the paycheck hasn’t cleared, make it with frozen green beans for an even more economical version. Note: Like many cheeses, Parmesan classically includes animal rennet; but there are animal-rennet-free alternatives available if you’d like (just check the ingredient list).
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Cook 1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced, 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, coarsely chopped, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5–8 minutes.
Add 1 lb. green beans, trimmed, cut into 2" pieces, one 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, and 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender enough to cut with a spoon and beads of oil appear on surface of sauce, 25–35 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook 12 oz. medium tube-shaped pasta (such as rigatoni or penne) in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions (pasta will finish cooking in sauce). Drain, reserving about 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta to sauce along with zest of 1 large lemon, 2 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup), and remaining 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring vigorously and adding up to ½ cup reserved pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce is silky and pasta is coated and al dente, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
Transfer pasta to large bowl or platter and drizzle generously with oil. Top with coarsely chopped mint and/or parsley and more Parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
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Utterly delicious. My step son, who said he wasn't very hungry inhaled two bowls. I used about 6 cloves of garlic because I was nervous but I should have just gone for it, plus I didn't have crushed tomatoes so I put a can of San Marzanos in the blender. Other than these minor changes, this recipe is a masterpiece. Make it! Put it into your repertoire of family meals to love. I've come to learn the incredible flavour that lemon peel adds to a pasta. Do not leave this out. That would be a shame. Thank you so much Shilpa!