Our Italian green beans recipe uses a pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese to make a fantastic vegetable side dish that is full of fresh flavours courtesy of the just-cooked green beans, lots of texture thanks to the panko breadcrumbs and sesame seeds, and plenty of umami from the balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano.
One for the vegetable lovers, this incredibly delicious Italian green beans recipe will make you crisp just-cooked fresh green beans that are given a boost of flavour and texture thanks to the Italian pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and umami courtesy of the Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar.
It’s an addictive vegetable side dish that’s fantastic with Mediterranean style braised chicken with olives, a luscious chicken cacciatore, succulent pan-roasted brined pork chops, or some rustic artisanal sausages from your favourite butcher. It’s also a perfect side dish for a great steak or côte de bœuf.
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Now let me share this deliciously addictive Italian green beans recipe with a pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Italian Green Beans Recipe with Crunchy Breadcrumbs and Parmesan Cheese
Our Italian green beans recipe uses Italian pangrattato, which simply means grated bread or breadcrumbs – ‘pan’ is bread, and ‘grattato’ is grated – that are stir-fried until golden-brown and crunchy, then combined with Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano.
The fresh green beans are stir-fried in extra virgin olive oil to make a healthy vegetable side dish that’s full of texture and flavour, and made to be served at the centre of the table and shared.
My Italian green beans recipe calls for a far more generous amount of breadcrumbs than you’d ever find served with green beans in Italy. In fact the Italians would probably think this amount of breadcrumbs was disproportionate to the vegetables.
I not only combine the green beans with the fried breadcrumbs, I spread the crunchy pangrattato on the serving plate, pile the beans on them, then sprinkle more golden-brown breadcrumbs on top.
For many years we travelled to Italy researching and writing travel guidebooks; often renting apartments by the month, from Milan to Venice, and whenever we had cooked green beans in Italy, they were generally served fairly plain.
The star of the meal was always the main course or second course – typically a fish, meat or poultry dish – which follows an appetiser and pasta course. Vegetables weren’t meant to compete, let alone steal the limelight, as my green beans with breadcrumbs does.
Just a few tips to making this Italian green beans recipe with a pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Tips to Making this Italian Green Beans Recipe with Crunchy Breadcrumbs and Parmesan Cheese
I only have a handful of tips to how to make this Italian green beans recipe with a pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, as it’s an absolute cinch to make and like a lot of our vegetable side dishes, it comes together quickly.
Make the Pangrattato
What’s the difference between Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan cheese? While Parmesan cheese is often used as the translation of Pamigiano-Reggiano by English speakers, they are not the same.
Pamigiano-Reggiano is made in Parma and Reggio Emilia in Italy and its production is highlighted regulated and classified, so you know you’re getting the real deal, a higher quality and better tasting cheese, which is why it’s more expensive.
Parmesan cheese is not regulated, can be made anywhere, and doesn’t taste as delicious, which is why it’s cheaper. It’s still a good substitute if the budget won’t stretch to the genuine product or you simply can’t source it.
Buy a block of parmesan, avoid the grated ‘parmesan cheese’ that looks like saw dust, if you can, as there’s a reason for that: tests over the years have found that some parmesan brands contain cellulose, made from wood pulp.
I use this round flat bottomed wok for almost everything and it’s perfect for this dish, but by all means use your favourite skillet or frying pan.
Italian cooks use plain breadcrumbs, but we prefer Japanese panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch and texture.
It’s essential to continuously stir-fry the panko breadcrumbs if using a wok – or sauté if you prefer a skillet. I use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. Don’t stop frying, as they’ll start to burn.
As soon as the breadcrumbs turn golden-brown, transfer them to the bowl of grated Parmesan and stir well to thoroughly incorporate the two. I then divide the breadcrumbs in half, separating half into a smaller bowl.
Stir-Fry the Green Beans
Next, our Italian green beans recipe calls for cooking the green beans, which should be fresh green beans – canned beans won’t work in this recipe. Green beans are also known as the common green bean or French green beans or haricot vert.
Clean out your wok or a large skillet using a paper kitchen towel, heat the extra virgin olive oil just until it starts to shimmer, then add the green beans and stir-fry for a few minutes.
It’s also important to continuously stir-fry the green beans, especially after adding the minced garlic, sea salt, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, and sugar (optional), and to keep stir-frying for another minute or so.
You want the beans just-cooked so that they’re still firm and crunchy. A little blistering is okay, but you don’t want the beans to lose their bright green colour.
Add the balsamic vinegar – I recommend buying an authentic balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy – stir to combine well, then remove the green beans from the heat.
Toss the cooked beans into the large bowl with half the breadcrumbs and stir to combine well.
A note on the flavours and seasoning – some Italian green bean recipes call for ingredients such as crispy bacon and dried herbs such as oregano and basil or blends such as Italian seasoning.
They would be out of place in this dish – minced garlic cloves, sea salt, chilli flakes, balsamic vinegar and parmesan all provide plenty of umami or deep savoury flavours.
Plate the Beans and Breadcrumbs
To plate the dish, I spread half of the breadcrumbs that you separated into a smaller bowl out onto a serving plate, then pile the mix of green beans and breadcrumbs on top of those.
Sprinkle on the remaining breadcrumbs in the small bowl. If you like, grate on more Parmesan cheese. There should be enough salt, but I like more chilli flakes. You might prefer cracked black pepper. Serve immediately while still hot.
If you have leftovers, simply refrigerate them in an airtight container, but note that the breadcrumbs won’t be crunchy the next day – which is a good excuse to make some more!
Italian Green Beans Recipe with Crunchy Breadcrumbs and Parmesan Cheese
- 40 g Parmesan cheese - grated finely – Parmigiano Reggiano preferably
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 500 g fresh green beans - trimmed
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp chilli flakes or ground paprika
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds - black and white seeds, mixed
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan
- Transfer the grated Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano to a large bowl.
- To a wok or skillet over medium heat, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, heat until shimmering, add a cup of panko Japanese breadcrumbs and stir-fry continuously for a few minutes (or as long as it takes) until golden-brown.
- Transfer the breadcrumbs to the bowl of grated Parmesan, stir well to thoroughly incorporate then transfer half to a small bowl.
- Use a paper kitchen towel to wipe the wok or skillet, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, heat until shimmering, add the green beans, stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the minced garlic, sea salt, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, and sugar, and stir-fry continuously for another minute or two. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine well.
- Transfer the beans to the large bowl of breadcrumbs and stir to thoroughly combine. Of the breadcrumbs that you separated into a smaller bowl, spread half out onto a serving plate. Pile the green beans on top, sprinkle on the remaining breadcrumbs, and serve immediately.
- If you wish, sprinkle on more grated Parmesan, more chilli flakes, or perhaps cracked black pepper.
Please do let us know in the Comments below if you make our Italian green beans recipe with a pangrattato of crunchy breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.