Zoe’s Green Beans (Fasolakia tis Zoes)

Zoe’s mama always insisted her children put the utmost effort into school, and didn’t distract them too much with cleaning and cooking chores. As a result, Zoe reached adulthood without having ever made the classic Greek green bean dish fasolakia.

On a trip home to Greece, Zoe was taken by a craving for fasolakia (green beans). Mama was in California. What to do? Call Mama of course! Unfortunately it was 5 am California time. Mama was very sleepy, grumpy and would not give the recipe.

So Zoe asked the greengrocer, “How should I cook green beans?” He gave her his recipe. An old lady overheard this and said to Zoe, “What’s this? A grown girl like you doesn’t know how to cook green beans?” The old lady’s recipe was a little different than the greengrocer’s, so the lady had to share it in order to keep Zoe from falling into the errors of the greengrocer’s recipe. After getting these recipes, Zoe asked her hairdresser, “How do you cook green beans?” Of course she got yet a third recipe.

Then she asked a couple of her aunts. Theia Maria agreed with the hairdresser about not sauteing anything and added a stern warning that sauteing made the dish heavy on the stomach. The other aunt said, “Pfft, how can you not saute? A little garlic and a little onion, they have to be sauteed.” “No, Eleni mou, it tastes just as good if you don’t saute.” The last Zoe heard, they were still arguing about this.

The recipe that follows is Zoe’s amalgamation of all the green bean recipes she gathered from all sorts of people.
Veggies for greek green beans.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound onions, sliced
  • a few cloves of garlic, sliced or roughly chopped
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, chopped or grated, (about 4 cups) or an equal amount of canned tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 pound potatoes, sliced rather thickly
  • 2 pounds green beans
  • 1 bunch parsley, washed and coarsely chopped

Prepping the Veggies

Slice or chop the garlic. Grate the tomatoes. Wash and chop the parsley.

Snap the ends off the green beans. Discard the ends!
Snapping green beans for fasolakia. Green beans snapped for fasolakia.

Rinse and drain the bean middles.
Green beans draining in colander.
Cut the stem ends off the onions, then halve them lengthwise. Peel and slice:
Slicing onions for greek green beans.
Peel the potatoes and slice them rather thickly.
A thick potato slice for fasolakia.

Cooking It!

Cover the bottom of the pot with olive oil, about 1/2 cup. Heat the oil on high, add the onions and saute them for about 5 minutes.
Sauteeing onions for greek fasolakia.
Add the garlic, peppercorns, and half the parsley, and saute for another 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Boil the tomatoes.
After boiling the tomatoes for 5 minutes or so, add the potatoes and stir them into the sauce.
Add potatoes to the tomato sauce for the green beans.

Put the green beans on top. Do not stir them in! Keep them as a layer on top of the potatoes!
Add green beans on top.

Make sure the liquid comes up past the potato layer to approximately the middle of the green bean layer. If not, add water to make it do so. It’s okay if the liquid even comes up to the top of the green bean layer, better to have the dish a little soupy than to have it not cook up properly, or even burn. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Please ignore the spoon in the picture, you are not to stir! Leave the ingredients in layers!

Sprinkle parsley on top of the fasolakia.
Cover and simmer vigorously for approximately 1 hour.
Totally gratuitous picture of my pretty new blue enameled cast-iron pot.

Note: If you’re using a nonstick pot, you can simmer pretty vigorously. If you’re using a good heavy-bottomed pot that’s not nonstick (like my Lodge Enameled Cast-Iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven, Caribbean Blue), you can simmer pretty vigorously but you’d better check every 15 minutes or so to make sure the dish isn’t sticking to the bottom. If it is, you need to stir it a bit and maybe turn the heat down some. If you have to keep the heat lower to keep the dish from sticking, you might need to plan on an extra hour or so of cooking. And if you’re using a crappy thin-bottomed pot because that’s all you have, you can still make a great pot of beans, but make it a day ahead of time so that you can cook it slowly for as long as necessary.
Fasolakia, Greek green beans, dished up and ready to devour.
You are not aiming for crisp, bright-green beans with this recipe. The beans should be soft and sweet. Be sure to soak up the delicious sauce with some bread. This dish is just as good the next day.

Here are a couple of variations: You can add 2 or 3 thickly sliced zucchini on top of the green beans. And some people like to top the dish with yogurt.

Weekend Herb Blogging LogoThis is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

39 Comments »

  1. Comment by Laurie Constantino

    My first read of the morning and oh you made me laugh. This story is truly a classic. Here’s my secret about green beans: I’ve sauteed, I’ve not sauteed, I’ve layered, I’ve stirred, I’ve added potatoes, I’ve added zucchini, I’ve cooked the beans plain, I’ve cooked them with meat, I’ve cooked them without and, shockingly, I’ve even made them sans tomatoes. In all their incarnations, I’ve NEVER had a pot of Fasolakia that tastes anything other than obsolutely wonderful. Soft and sweet - exactly right!

  2. Comment by lulu

    I believe you, Laurie! Although, yes, I am a bit shocked by the tomato-less version! :-)

  3. Comment by Cheryl

    A favorite dish of mine, I’ve tried it many ways and I always love it. Laurie inspired me to add a bay leaf this year and it only improved a dish that I already crave constantly. I usually end up freezing some for a later day because, again, I’m currently the only veggie lover here. (I’m working on the baby though…so far she still eats anything I put in front of her)

  4. Comment by lulu

    Hi Cheryl! I never have any to freeze because my parents love this as well, so I always bring them some. Keep it up with the baby, you never know what tastes will stick in their little brains for later consumption!

  5. Comment by maria verivaki

    fasolakia can also be added plain boiled to horta, dressed with the typical oil-lemon-salt - delicious!

  6. Comment by lulu

    I didn’t know about that, Maria, thanks!

  7. Comment by Kalyn

    I have several Greek friends who have made this for me, but never with potatoes. That’s an interesting addition. I agree with Laurie, the beans are always delicious.

  8. Comment by lulu

    Kalyn, thanks for visiting! I love how the potatoes soak up the flavors. On the other hand, they make the dish less freezer-friendly (at least for my taste).

  9. Comment by Ivy

    Hi Lulu. Sorry I haven’t been around lately, but I promise to read all your posts I missed. Well, this proves that Greeks have imagination and don’t just stick to one boring recipe, so what’s bad about many versions and opinions about this food?

  10. Comment by lulu

    I agree, Ivy, just as long as it doesn’t come to blows!

  11. Comment by Lady Sweet Chips

    GREAT PICTURES!!

  12. Comment by lulu

    Thank you, Lady Sweet Chips!

  13. Comment by Margo

    This was absolutely delicious. It had a unique flavor I was not expecting from the ingredients. Are the potatoes supposed to cook down to very tiny pieces? I used Yukon Gold potatoes and this is what happened. If potatoes should maintain their thick slice, is it better to use a waxy potato?

  14. Comment by Fran

    What kind of potatoes do you add to the sauce?

  15. Comment by Fran

    If you use canned tomatoes, what kind should you use?

  16. Comment by Manuella Pararas-Hulbert

    First I love this site and makes me feel quite proud as a greek girl.

    Secondly, thank you so much for sharing this, my mom does it differently than I do and its nice to see I’m not the weird one,lol.

  17. Comment by Lulu

    Potatoes - use any kind. The potatoes do break down, so starting with thick slices keeps them from totally dissolving.

    Canned tomatoes - we usually use canned tomato sauce, but diced or crushed tomatoes would do nicely.

  18. Comment by Agapia

    This dish looks great(pictures are done well)I love it with the potatoes, my version is with fresh dill…the parsley is wonderful and so is the bay leaf..try it with the dill

  19. Comment by Amber Burkardt

    Amazing! My fiance is Greek and has grown up on his mothers wonderful cooking for 29 years! He loved the dish!! I followed the recipe exactly and i am very pleasesd!

  20. Comment by Catherine

    I can absolutly crave fasolokia! Delicious! Thanks for this labor of love!
    Question for you…if I wanted to add fresh dill - when would I add it to this recipe? My Mom grew up on the Adriatic Sea in Italy and made something like this she called a “Chombota”….but I like the extra olive oil and long cooking time in this recipe as it gives the beans a delicious fruity exotic flavor that’s hard to match! Thanks so much for sharing this heartwarming story!

  21. Comment by Lulu

    @20 Catherine: Interesting question. I just conferred with Zoe and we agreed that you’d treat it like the fresh parsley and add it at the same time as the fresth parsley. That said, I personally would probably save out some of the fresh dill to throw in 5-10 minutes before the dish was finished to freshen the flavors.

  22. Comment by Catherine

    thanks Lulu! very kind. will let you know how it works out. best to you and Zoe.

  23. Pingback by Parsley in fasolakia — Starving off the Land

    [...] Greek-style green beans, cooked with tomato and potato — and loads of parsley.  I used a recipe from mamastaverna.com, and it worked perfectly. You might also enjoy:I never promised you an herb garden Lots of things [...]

  24. Comment by Nathan Hoialmen

    Greetings Zoe! Thanks for the informative and detailed post! I’ve been eating my giagia’s classic fasolakia for years and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! However, on a recent visit to Mt. Pelion, on the Aegean coast, my wife and I discovered a variation at a village taverna that I’d like to share with your readers. Rather than adding potatoes, they added garbanzos/chick peas. Because my wife is a corbophobe and believes garbanzos are lower in carbs than potatoes (whatever) we’ve been making it this way ever since and love it. (but don’t tell giagia!) I feel like I’ve also eaten fasolakia with kidney(?) beans. Good eats!

  25. Comment by Evan

    Yum! Being a novice cook I found this recipe very clear and easy to follow. Thanks!

  26. Comment by Irene

    The best fasolakia recipe in the world!!!!

  27. Comment by Josey

    Hi Lulu, I had this as a side at a local greek restaurant and always loved it. I just tried out your recipe and it worked out lovely even for a novice cooker like me. Thank you for the recipe!

  28. Pingback by Five Ways to Eat Green Beans | Food & Think

    [...] recipes, as recounted in an amusing tale at the site Mama’s Taverna. Most of them (including this one) involve stewing the beans in tomatoes, onions, and sometimes potatoes until sweet and [...]

  29. Comment by Adriana

    #20 Catherine: “champota” (pretty good….Italian dialect though) is ratatouille - French for the same thing. Every Western European country seems to have their own version of it. I’ve never seen a recipe with green beans. Onions, garlic, tomatoes, zucchini, sweet green/red (or whatever have you) peppers, egg plant and of course, basil make up the “champota” I know. I came on this site looking for green beans (fagiolini, in Italian) cooked with tomatoes. Gave me good ideas…now on to cooking dinner.

  30. Comment by Sharon

    Just wanted to let you know I have made this recipe many times. I was looking for a recipe that would be close to the green bean dishes at our local Lebanese and Greek festivals. In my opinion this recipe surpasses them all. Thnak you so much for sharing!

  31. Comment by Bill Kennedy

    Been looking for a Fasolakia recipe that resembles the authentic for many years. With this one you have hit the jackpot - my kitchen smells like Thrassos’ taverna in Souvala, Eagina. Many thanks. Try with a pinch of dried thyme added with the salt and pepper.

  32. Comment by Volha

    Hello, Guys!
    I read all your comments but I did not found for how many persons this recipe is. Colud you tell me if somebody knows.

    With sunshine from Thessaloniki!

  33. Comment by Emina

    You didn’t put “anithos” inside (the green herb, I don’t know the english name)? You can also mix some leaves mint to the parsley, it’s deliicious!

  34. Comment by Brian

    Nice Dish…my 1/2 greek wife liked it a lot. I get the feeling though, its not exactly what she’s used to eating. I’ve never had the dish so I have nothing to compare it to. We baked fresh bread and had a killer meal sans meat. This is a nice hearty dish to try if you are trying to cut down on your meat consumption. Wonderful flavors. I hope to try a couple other fasolakias to see what I might adjust. On its own, however it is a great dish, and I followed instructions exactly.

  35. Comment by Renee

    This looks like a great recipe to use these two huge cans I have of green beans and diced tomatoes on! I was wondering, though, in your picture of the finished fasolaia, what the white stuff is with the bread. Feta? Butter?

  36. Comment by Stu

    This is one of those recipes that has an almost infinite number of variations. This is my first time here, but I’ve made this recipe in nearly all of the combinations of ingredients mentioned. My garden this year is the best I’ve ever had, so I’m always on the hunt for new and different ways to use the bounty. One idea I haven’t seen is to omit the potato and substitute some uncooked pasta at the beginning. Make sure it’s near the bottom of the pot so it stays covered with liquid, and allow enough cooking time for it to get fully cooked. (I use Barilla gemelli because it seems to hold its texture a lot better than most other brands when subjected to long cooking.) Of course you could use the potato and the pasta, but that seems redundant. The herb combination I use is parsley, basil, fresh oregano, fresh summer savory, fresh thyme and mint or whichever of those I happen to have in the garden. I sometimes add a little butter at the end and crumble on some feta if I happen to have it. There’s really no right or wrong way to make this just as long as you don’t burn the bottom of the pot. But, please…. don’t use canned green beans. They’re tasteless and mushy. Fresh is the way to go. If I got canned vegetables of any kind in a restaurant, except tomatoes, I’d never go back.

  37. Comment by Zoe

    Since my husband is not a fan of roasted or stewed potatoes, I add more meat and substitute carrots instead if potatoes.

  38. Comment by Jill

    The herb anithos = Dill

  39. Comment by Lisa

    I can appreciate purists (of which I am one, especially when making traditional dishes) simmering this dish for an hour or more, but I was wondering if anyone has tried, or will admit to trying :-) it in a crock pot or in a covered casserole in the oven? Comments please? Thanks!

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