Late summer is a time of abundance for British gardeners, the time of year when a vast majority of homegrown crops are at their peak and when keeping up with your edible bounty can be downright difficult! Runner beans have been a staple crop in my household since I was a child, and in good years we eat them almost every day, the plants putting out fresh batches of beans practically overnight.
Even if you aren’t growing your own, runner beans are everywhere now so it’s a great time to get some toothsome airmile-guilt-free food whilst it’s dead cheap. This is a delicious and simple dish which is easily scaled up or down, depending on the number of people needing serving (and how big your glut of runner beans is!). I wouldn’t bother cooking less than half of the tomato sauce – simply because it’s so easy and tasty you can use any spare sauce for other pasta dishes, stews or even on homemade pizzas. It keeps in the fridge for several days, or in the freezer for months.
550g runner beans
9 medium-sized tomatoes (around 950g)
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
olive oil, salt, pepper
Parmesan, to serve
Firstly peel the tomatoes: boil the kettle, score a small cross in the tomatoes top and bottom with a small, sharp knife and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour over the kettle of freshly boiled water and leave for a minute, then drain and ‘refresh’ in a bowlful of cold water to arrest the cooking process. The skins should slip off easily now, so peel them and dice roughly.
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a frying pan or wide saucepan and add the sliced garlic. Sizzle for a minute or so until the garlic smells fragrant but hasn’t coloured, then add the tomatoes (careful – water hitting oil can spit violently). Season generously with salt and pepper and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the tomatoes have collapsed into a delicious sauce.
Meanwhile, top and tail the runner beans and push through a bean-slicer*. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and throw in the spaghetti. Cook for five minutes, then add the sliced beans and cook for a further five minutes (adjust if necessary according to your pasta’s recommended cooking time).
Drain the beans and pasta, and toss with a small splash of olive oil before diving between four warm plates. Stir the basil into the tomato sauce (leaving it ’til the last minute gives you the best and freshest flavour), then spoon over the spaghetti. Finish with a grinding of black pepper and a shaving of parmesan.
*Nothing known to man, no tip or technique, preps runner beans as efficiently as a bean slicer. Go on – try peeling off the stringy edges and slicing your beans into perfect spaghetti strands with a chef’s knife and you’ll see what I mean. They cost peanuts and take up next to no space in your kitchen drawer. Buy one – this is one gadget you WON’T regret.