Italian green bean casserole is known in Italy as Polpettone alla Ligure.
It’s made with a few simple ingredients: green beans, eggs, potatoes, parmigiano cheese, fresh marjoram, and breadcrumbs on top to give it crunchiness.
The use of potatoes and green beans in the same recipe is very common in Ligurian cuisine, as in Lasagna alla Genovese for example.
We call it polpettone but it’s for all intents and purposes a casserole or pie.
Prepared exclusively with vegetable ingredients and completely meat-free, it’s nutritionally balanced and also suitable for those on a vegetarian diet.
You make it in 40 minutes and bake for about 45. The result is a green bean and mashed potato pie with a delicate but also intense and aromatic taste.
In fact, the secret to the success of this Italian green bean casserole recipe is the addition of fresh marjoram, used very often in Genoese cuisine. Marjoram gives this recipe its characteristic aroma.
You can make this recipe in just a few steps and serve either hot or at room temperature, as a main course or appetizer.
Italian green bean casserole is soft on the inside with a crisp, golden crust on the surface. Give it a try!
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How to Make Italian Green Bean Casserole
- Prep Time: 20 Min
- Cook Time: 45 Min
- Resting Time:10 Min
- Servings: 8
Doses for a 13×9 inch baking dish
- 450 g (1 pound) of green beans
- 1 kg ( 2,2 pounds) of potatoes
- 3 eggs
- 1 medium onion
- 100 g (1 cup) of grated Parmigiano cheese
- 2 sprigs of fresh marjoram
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 40 g (1/3 cup) of breadcrumbs
- fine salt and black pepper to taste
Step 1) – To make Italian green bean casserole (Polpettone alla Ligure), boil whole potatoes with their skin in salted boiling water. This take 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
Once cooked, drain and peel them. Then mash them with a potato masher and put them in a large bowl.
Step 2) – Wash the green beans and remove the tail ends.
Then boil them in boiling salted water for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Step 3) – Next, cut the green beans into pieces of about 2 cm (2/3 inch). Cut the onion into small pieces as well.
Then saute the green beans and onion in a pan with a tablespoon of oil and a little salt for about five minutes.
Step 4) – Now add the green beans to the mashed potatoes.
Stir and add the eggs, grated parmigiano cheese, a pinch more salt, ground black pepper, and finally the marjoram leaves broken up with your hands.
Step 5) – Grease with a bit of oil an oven dish and dust it with 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Lay the mixture on top, leveling it well over the entire surface. The thickness should not exceed 3 cm (about 1 inch).
In Italy it’s tradition to decorate the surface of Polpettone alla Ligure with the tines of a fork, forming the typical horizontal and vertical lines.
Step 6) – Now sprinkle the surface of the Italian green bean casserole with breadcrumbs. Also add a drizzle of oil.
Bake at 350°F (180°C) in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the meatloaf is golden brown on the surface.
Step 7) – Once ready, remove it from the oven and let it cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
How to Store Italian Green Bean Casserole
You can store Italian Green Bean Casserole already cooked for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
We don’t recommend to make it too many hours in advance of baking. This is because obviously the mixture should be stored in the refrigerator, but then the potatoes will blacken.
After baking you can freeze it. Keep in the freezer up to 1 month.
Polpettone alla Ligure: Some Variations
Like all traditional recipes that come from local customs and traditions, also this recipe has many variations.
Some, for example, use zucchini or chard instead of or in addition to green beans.
They often use ricotta cheese in the mixture of green bean and mashed potato casserole, which makes the taste more delicate and the texture softer.
The addition of mushrooms, fresh or dried, is also very common.
In some areas of Liguria, they don’t use onion but they flavor this pie with garlic. The garlic is minced together with marjoram.
What are the Best Potatoes for Making Casseroles?
Choose potatoes that are all the same size for even cooking.
Keep in mind that old potatoes are less watery, so they result in a more compact and dry preparation.
Instead, “new” ones, which are richer in water, make the mixture a little softer.
In this case, add a tablespoon of breadcrumbs to the mixture.
What is the Best Quality of Green Beans for Italian Green Bean Casserole?
Of course, green beans are a key and important ingredient for green bean casserole.
Perfect are the very tender ones that do not yet have the very annoying central “string”.
If, on the other hand, you have adult and leathery ones, remember to remove, in addition to the tips, the central thread.
Green beans, as we have shown you, should not only be boiled, but also sautéed in a pan with oil, salt and onion to give them more flavor.
Marjoram is a Must in Polpettone alla Ligure
Marjoram is an aromatic plant native to North Africa that almost never grows wild in Europe, but is cultivated.
It’s widespread and cultivated in Liguria. Ligurians use marjoram a lot, especially in stuffing, meatloaf, and flans.
Marjoram should not be confused with oregano, although they are very similar. Marjoram is more delicate and has leaves with more hair.
It’s the leaves that are the edible part of marjoram. The leaves are dried and then used to make infusions and herbal teas.
In this way we can enjoy the many beneficial properties of marjoram.
The ancient Romans used it therapeutically to treat many ailments and called it “mazurana.”
Marjoram leaves, unlike oregano, are also used fresh. Especially for stuffings, meatballs and salads.
Fresh marjoram leaves broken coarsely by hand release all their unmistakable aroma.
Curiosity: Ancient Names of Ligurian Meatloaf.
One of the most famous legends about Polpettone alla Ligure is that this dish was once called Sčiattamàiu or “schiatta marito,” which means “kill husband.”
In fact, it was said to be so good that men ate so much of it that they became sick!
Another ancient and dialectal way of calling this dish was “Lo Scarbassa.”
This term has even medieval origins and takes its name from the basket that, placed on the backs of donkeys, was used to carry herbs and vegetables harvested in the fields.