Fagiolini Sott’Olio: Who Thought Green Beans Could Be Exquisite?
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Last summer, I discovered the Italian method for preserving vegetables: Sott’Olio. It sounds so much fancier than “preserved in oil,” so I’ll stick with it. While you can preserve many veggies this way, I am sharing this recipe because, until I tried it, I never thought green beans could be exquisite. They’re cooked al dente (yes, the way Italians cook pasta) and it gives them this wonderful crispiness, with all the subtle flavors absorbed from the herbs and oil.
Positive side note for all the parents, my children gobbled these down. We went to a local farmer and literally bought him out, eating half a preserved jar a day - as a snack, as a side dish. Whenever and however the kids wanted it. I would never stop them from packing more veggies into their bellies.
Sott’Olio is an ingenious way to preserve your veggies. Every family has a slightly different way to do it and has different herb preferences (this recipe is adapted from Alessandra’s mom and aunt). It is quite simple and once you get the hang of it, you can futz around with different herb combinations, as well as try it on different vegetables, like zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, etc. (recipes to be posted soon!)
It is a particularly compelling way to preserve veggies during this quarantine time. Actually, do you all remember when this whole thing started and all the supermarkets were mostly empty? I remember walking in and all the foods that take longer than a week to spoil were gone – not just dry and canned goods, but also longer-lasting and veggies and fruit and the frozen section.
Nobody wanted large quantities of veggies that would spoil in three to four days. . . except me. So, I stocked up on the rows of green beans, mixed color peppers, zucchinis, eggplant and all the veggies I could think of to preserve.
Sott’Olio literally saved us in that first month when it was impossible to find anything in the stores. And, it continues to help us stock up in larger quantities and stretch the time period between food orders/shopping (to minimize contact because we live with Baba, my elderly at-risk mother).
A few more quick side notes before continuing with the recipe:
1) I prefer to use French beans to regular green beans. The French beans are thinner and denser and so, remind me much more of the beans we ate in Italy. Regular green beans found in the U.S. tend to vary significantly in thickness and have more hollows between the beans in the pod and, as a result, are not as evenly cooked al dente. Still, I’ve made it with both and enjoy the recipe with both.
2) Also, the original recipe calls for white wine vinegar. Again, in these quarantine times, I was able to get my hands on brown rice vinegar and I love the taste. It is a little milder and sweeter, adding to the subtleness of the flavors.
3) DO NOT THROW AWAY THE OIL AFTER USE! Once you’ve eaten your green beans, you will have a decent amount of olive oil left over. It is delicious and, while I don’t like to cook with olive oil, we use it to toss over a salad, for some pane, aglio e olio, for some pane e pomodoro, or to add to an already-cooked pasta dish.
4) Lastly, if you plan on preserving your beans to store outside the refrigerator, you must have your airtight containers ready for preserving (they must be sterilized before using). We have our stock of mason jars (Kerr and Bfall, we have no loyalties yet) and I would caution against reusing commercial jars for canning (there’s plenty more to use them for!)
So, without further ado, here is the recipe (Note: in the pictures, I'm preserving 8 pounds of green beans)!
Prep Time: 10 - 20 min (depends on if the green bean tips are already cut)
Cook Time: 30 min. (plus, 30 min cool time)
Canning Time: 20 min.
Total Time: 1 hour 40 min.
Storage: 9 months if you seal the jars properly, 3 months refrigerated
4 lbs/1.8 kilos French beans/green beans
12 oz/355 ml Brown Rice Vinegar
33.8 oz/1 liter Extra Virgin Olive Oil – add more if needed, per recipe
Handful Parsley, roughly chopped
Handful Mint, chiffonade (rolled up and sliced into thin strips)
Crushed Red Peppers Flakes to taste
8-10 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp/11g Salt
1. If the green beans do not already come cut, cut only the tips of the beans that have the stem attachment to remove the firm, inedible part..
2. Add the vinegar, salt and enough water to cover the beans to a pot and bring it to a boil
3. Once the pot is boiling, add the green beans and cook for no more than 10 minutes.
4. Drain the green beans and let them cool (approximately 30 min). Don’t try to cool them under cold water as you will flush the salt and vinegar out.
5. Begin layering the canning jars with the ingredients: a) a couple slices of garlic, b) a pinch of mint, parsley, and red pepper, c) a couple handfuls of green beans. You can spiral them into the jar if they are too long for it, or just put then in there standing up. The contents should be packed pretty tight so you do not have to use an unnecessarily large quantity of olive oil. Don’t be afraid to press down on them to pack them tight, they are pretty flexible and won’t break.
6. At about ¼ the way up the jar, add another layer of spices and bean. Continue all the way up until 1 inch before the top, adding one last layer of garlic, mint, parsley and red pepper flakes.
8. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil. Make sure everything is submerged and there are no air bubbles left. Seal your jars as tightly as you can by hand.
9. If not truly sealing, immediately place in your refrigerator. If you seal the jars, they can be stored at room temperature.
One request if you tried this Recipe:
I’d love to hear how you enjoyed your fagiolini in the comments below and/or pin this post to your Pinterest (click on any photo) and/or comment on the Facebook post by this same name!