Sautéed Green Beans with Pancetta is Delightful

Sautéed Green Beans with Pancetta and Pine Nuts

Pull up a skillet and lets get to work on a delightful tangle of Sautéed Green Beans and Leeks with Pancetta, Pine Nuts and Zesty Citrus. It’s the kind of side dish that could accompany any meal or every meal. It’s the perfect example of simplicity in the kitchen.

The concept of simplicity in the kitchen is something the serious cook should embrace. But it’s more than merely seeking out recipes that are simply “easy”. Many people squeal with delight when they see the word “easy” attached to a recipe. A lot of bloggers use the phrase in their SEO game plan. Not me.

It’s not that I believe cooking should be complicated or difficult, or that you need to pull every trick out of your toque at every meal. I love recipes that are effortless. In fact (don’t tell anyone) these Sautéed Green Beans are easy to make– although that’s beside the point.

Whatever the meal. Whatever the occasion. To me it’s a matter of motivation.

An important dinner for the boss, a casual lunch with friends, or hot soup for a child with a cold. It doesn’t matter what the occasion is. “The cook’s first job is to delight”. Delight the spouse. Delight the family. Delight thyself. However, we cooks have further responsibilities. We have to be nutritionists as well as time and money managers. Once our job is done there might be a “thanks hon” or a grateful smile, but we’re often left alone, elbow deep in dishes, while the rest of the family goes back whatever they were up to when the dinner bell rang. But the kitchen is our domain and we shouldn’t take that job lightly. We’re the Captains of Cuisine and the best of us will go down with the skillet if need be.

I’m making light of a serious subject, but I’m trying to say that as chief cook and bottle washer our responsibilities go further than just getting it on the table. If just getting it on the table is our primary goal, we’re apt to take easy short cuts that will not delight. Remember I said our first job is to delight.

Which sometimes means embracing the mundane. So plan, procure, and slow down. Find pleasure in waiting for a watched pot to boil. Embrace the peeling of a carrot. It might be easier to buy a carrot that is already peeled, but the difference will be astounding. Done right carrots can delight.

Sautéed Green Beans with Pancetta

Green beans can delight as well. Sautéed Green Beans take a bit more time and certainly require an impeccably fresh product. However, there’s nothing difficult about them. In fact they’re delightful.

The process starts with pork and olive oil. To a cook who embraces the sensual, there’s almost nothing better than pork cooked in fat. Butter and fragrant leeks are stirred into the pan. The combination sounds indulgent, but I promise it’s just what these Sautéed Green Beans require. You’ll finish the dish with citrus zest. Which should make you smile. If it sounds like I’m getting a bit giddy– remember the mantra: cook, delight thyself. I mean myself. GREG

Thanks to the book Notes on Cooking for teaching me to find “delight” in everything I do in the kitchen. It’s changed the way I cook.

Sautéed Green Beans with Pancetta and Pine Nuts

Sautéed Green Beans with Pancetta and Pine Nuts 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Published
Sautéed Green Beans with Pancetta and Pine Nuts


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounce pancetta, cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leek (white and pale green parts only, well washed)
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 pound green beans (stem end trimmed)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 3 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • kosher salt (for seasoning)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (for seasoning)


Heat oil in large cast iron or non-stick pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and sauté, stirring frequently to brown all sides, until crisp and lightly golden. Use a slotted spoon to move the browned pieces to a paper towel to drain. Leave the fat in the pan.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan, raise the heat to medium-high. Add leek and garlic then sauté until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add green beans and sauté until tender crisp, 3–4 minutes more.

Add lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season to taste with and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.