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Springtime on a Plate: Pasta with Fava Beans and Ricotta Salata


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 lbs. unshelled fresh fava beans (or 1 cup cooked peas or steamed and chopped fresh asparagus, skip step #1)
  • 2 cups freshly grated ricotta salata cheese (buy a nice big chunk and use leftover on other pasta dishes)
  • ¼ lb. pancetta, diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. long dry pasta (e.g, spaghetti, linguine or bucatini)
  • Very good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare an ice water bath. Shell the fava beans, discarding the tough outer husks. Boil the fava beans in salted water for 2 minutes or so until the bright green beans start to turn pale yellow. Drain the beans and plunge into the ice water bath to cool. Drain and then pinch each fava bean using your fingernail to free each super-green fava bean from the interior shell into a bowl.

     

    Mark doing his best Italian grandmother work

  2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and slowly render the fat out until the pancetta is nicely crispy, stirring frequently. Let the fat slowly render—otherwise you will seal the fat into the pancetta.
  3. Meanwhile, set a large pot of liberally salted water on high heat. When fully boiling, add the dry pasta and stir. When the water returns to a boil. cook to 1-2 minutes short of the package directions. The pasta should still be slightly chewy, but not taste of flour.
  4. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add it to the sauté pan and stir into the pancetta and rendered fat for 1 minute.
  5. Add half the grated ricotta salata and the prepared fava beans. Use tongs or 2 wooden spoons to toss it all together. If too dry, add some of the pasta water.
  6. Drizzle olive oil and grind pepper over the pasta and toss. Taste the pasta and add more olive oil and pepper as you like.
  7. Serve and top with the remaining grated ricotta salata.