Fave alle acciughe (Fava beans with anchovies)

Fave alle acciughe

As the Spring fades into Summer, I wanted to do something special with my last batch of fava beans. Fava beans are a labor of love. They take a lot of garden space for a small number of pods. Then, a whole pound of fava bean pods reduces down to a cup after shucking, blanching, shocking and peeling. Nothing, but nothing, can compete with fresh fava beans from the garden, but Trader Joe’s does sell frozen fava beans that are ready to use.

Fava beans from the garden
Fava beans from the garden

I found this recipe in a cookbook I bought in the Marche region of Italy, the region where my paternal grandfather grew up. Upon reading it, I thought the anchovies and garlic would overwhelm the delicate taste of the fava beans, but in fact, the combination really makes sense. The anchovies and garlic really bring out the fava’s essence—a very mild and sweet bean.

This recipe makes a side dish of 4 servings.

Ingredients and Directions:

  • 2 lbs fresh fava bean pods or 1 package shelled, frozen fava beans
  • 2 high quality anchovy fillets (from Italy or Spain)
  • 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife and peeled
  • 1 sprig of marjoram, stems removed
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar

Special equipment:

  • Mortar and pestle (optional)
  1. Prepare the fava beans:
    1. If using fresh fava beans, break the pods open to release the fava beans. The beans have a thick skin that must also be removed. Blanch the fava beans in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool. This will help to retain the bright green color. Then, pinch each fava bean at the lower tip and squeeze the bean out of the skin. Discard the pod husks and skins (these are GOLD for your compost bin).
    2. If using frozen fava beans, blanch in boiling salted water until the fava beans are cooked but still have a crunch, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. On a cutting board, place the anchovies, garlic and marjoram leaves. Finely chop until you have a fine paste. You can also partially chop, and then use a mortar and pestle to finish the job.
  3. Transfer the paste to a medium-sized bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Season with salt and pepper (remember the anchovies are already pretty salty).
  4. Add the prepared the fava beans and toss to combine.
  5. Serve with a main course or as a crostini topping.

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