This exceptionally delicious plate of pasta shows how, with heat and a little time, ingredients can be transformed. Use the best, sweetest tomatoes you can find (if in doubt, use cherry tomatoes) and see how their flavour develops after spending time in a pan alongside olive oil and garlic. A bowl of comforting sustenance for those nights when you have little energy to cook.
Slow-cooked tomato and green bean spaghetti with lemon-chilli crumb
The crunchy crumb provides brilliant sparks of flavour to accent the gently acidic, sweet tomato sauce.
Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
8 plum tomatoes, chopped or 2 x 400g tins chopped plum tomatoes
Salt and black pepper
400g green beans, topped
2 big handfuls basil
For the crumb
2 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp extra to finish
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
75g dried breadcrumbs or panko
Zest of 1 lemon
Warm the oil in a pan over a medium heat and gently fry the sliced garlic until it starts to colour at the edges. Add the tomatoes, season well and leave to simmer briskly for 20-25 minutes, adding a little water if it threatens to catch at the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs. Warm the oil and the whole, peeled garlic cloves in a small frying pan over a low heat. After about five minutes, the garlic should be golden and soft and the oil should smell fragrant. Add the chilli flakes, cook for another minute, then turn the heat up to medium and add the breadcrumbs. Season generously, and fry, stirring all the while, for several minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest. Check the seasoning and set aside (you can leave the garlic in or take it out – whichever you prefer).
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the beans for three to four minutes, or until tender. Scoop the beans out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drop them straight into the tomato sauce. Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the spaghetti. Whilethe spaghetti is cooking, stir the beans into the sauce, still over the heat, adding a ladleful of pasta water to loosen the sauce.
Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain through a sieve, keeping a cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the beans and stir well. Set aside for a few minutes, then stir again, adding a few splashes of cooking water, again to loosen the sauce. Shred or rip the basil leaves into the sauce, transfer to heated plates and scatter over the breadcrumbs. Drizzle over the last tablespoon of oil and serve at once.
And for the rest of the week …
The garlicky crumbs are a great way to use bread that is going stale – blitz old bread into crumbs, leave it to dry, then store in sealed jars and fry whenever you want to add a delicious crunch to grilled vegetables, pasta or a gratin.