Beans Like Mama Used To Cook

This old Italian dish reminds me so much of my childhood, when the beans went on at the same time as the roast. Difference being these really taste terrific.

Good old Aussie gels made a habit of cooking beans until they were as grey as a losing punter. Soft, podgy, full of water, good only for those with the false teeth out for a steam clean. Sometimes the beans had a strange green colour about them: this was a con. The cooks added bicarbonate of soda to give them a green kick.

In Italy’s Calabria, they cook the pants off the beans as well. Thing is, here they are doing it for a purpose: to bring out the essential flavour of the beans, and give them the opportunity to blend with other flavours like parmesan and olive oil. It’s overcooking with sense, and sensibility.

This is one of the signature dishes at Toorak’s Condello restaurant, run by young husband and wife team Bruno and Cathy Condello. This is Bruno’s recipe.

500g green beans topped and tailed

2 cloves garlic, left whole

1L water


black pepper

150mL full-flavoured virgin olive oil

50g parmesan or ricotta cheese

fresh herbs (often chopped parsley)


Toss the beans and garlic cloves into a litre of water at somewhere short of a full-on boil. ‘Not full, not simmering,’ said Bruno. I prefer to cook the beans in full-on veal stock, but hey, here’s an authentic recipe that does it with bare-bones ingredients. Let’s not complain about that.


Continue cooking, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, possibly 30 minutes, until the water has all but gone and the beans are tender. ‘The water will dress the beans,’ said Bruno. Season with salt and black pepper.


Toss with the olive oil. ‘Really toss it.’ Add the parmesan, or ricotta if you wish, and then the herbs. Serve warm, or at room temperature, never cold from the fridge.


The beans will be far from the shining green beans you get from a stir-fry. ‘They could go pretty grey,’ said Bruno, ‘but we don’t usually worry about that.’