This is a wonderful recipe that can be used either as a vegetable or as a pasta sauce. If you make it in the summer when basil is fresh, green beans are young, and the tomatoes are ripe, ripe, ripe, it is perfect. Having said that, however, I have made it in the dead of winter with canned tomatoes, and it is still delicious.
Adapted from Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan
1 14-ounce can Italian peeled plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 pound fresh green beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons if using as a pasta sauce)
2 teaspoons garlic cut into slivers (can optionally increase to 1 tablespoon if using as a pasta sauce)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves*
Cut the root end of the green beans off, leaving the pointed end intact. (If using as a pasta sauce, cut the beans into 2-inch pieces, and use penne as the pasta). Wash the beans in cold water.
Choose a pan with a lid that will hold all the green beans. I use a three-quart saucier. Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan, turn on the heat to medium, and sauté the garlic until it becomes colored a pale gold. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the tomatoes, turn up the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the green beans to the pan, turn the heat down to medium, sprinkle with salt, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are tender but not mushy. This will take 15 to 20 minutes. If the juices in the pan are watery when the beans are done, remove the beans with a slotted spoon, turn the heat up, and boil away the excess liquid. Then return the beans to the pan, mix in the basil leaves, and serve.
*If using this as a pasta sauce, do not add the basil to the pan. When the pasta is cooked and drained, toss with the beans and all the contents of the pan, add the basil leaves, toss again, sprinkle with the extra 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and serve immediately.
Variation using Fresh Tomatoes
If it's summer, and the tomatoes are glorious, make this using 1 pound very ripe fresh tomatoes (1½ pounds if using as a pasta sauce). Wash the tomatoes, and drop them into a pot of boiling water When the water returns to a boil, cook for about a minute, then drain. When cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes, and cut them into large pieces. Make the recipe the same as above, substituting the fresh tomatoes for the canned.