Every Spring in a 2-foot by 10-foot space in our garden, I plant fava beans. This year I planted dried beans that I saved from last year’s harvest. Fava beans are one of those plant-it-and-forget-it plants that will come up and surprise you with a wonderful Springtime present.
Once you harvest them, it’s a bit of work to shuck, blanch, shock and peel them, but the payoff is a true bite of Springtime. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see the Warm Farro, Fava Bean and Pancetta Salad step #5 for instructions.
If you can find really fresh fava beans, the most popular way to eat them is freshly shucked with Pecorino cheese. When they are young and fresh, you don’t need to peel the outer skin.
In California, farmer’s markets are currently busting with fresh-picked fava beans. The East Coast probably has another month or so before favas are in season. Once they are done, they’re done for the year, because they don’t do well in hot weather.
So for this Springtime, I made a classic dish for Spring in Italy: fresh pasta with fava beans and pecorino cheese. This is a crazy-simple recipe but it does require the effort of preparing the fava beans. If you can find them at your local farm stand, give this recipe, and the others below, a try!
Here are some other fava bean recipes to try for Spring
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup prepared fava beans: shucked, blanched, shocked and peeled. (See note below.)
- Fresh ground pepper
- 4 oz fresh pasta (fettuccine, etc.)
- 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese, plus for more serving
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. If available, use a pot with a removable strainer insert. IMPORTANT!! – What makes this dish successful is using the starchy cooking water left over from cooking the pasta in the dish, so if you have to drain the pasta in a strainer, reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the prepared fava beans and gently warm in the oil. Grind a little black pepper into the beans if you like.
- Drop the fresh pasta into the boiling water. When the pasta floats to the top, cook for AT MOST 1 minute and drain.
- Ladle some pasta water into the hot skillet containing the fava beans. Swirl around and then add the cooked drained pasta. Raising the heat to medium, continue to cook the pasta in the pan with the water and fava beans until most but not all of the water has been absorbed.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add in most of the Pecorino Romano cheese (reserving some for serving at the table). Stir the pasta around to create a cheesy, starchy sauce.
- Serve and pass the remaining Pecorino.
Note: To prepare fresh favas, first remember that favas have two shells; yes! two. First free the individual fava beans from their pods. Shell them into a colander. Then bring a small pot of water with a little salt, big enough to hold the shelled favas, to a boil. Boil the favas for about 1 minute. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Once cool and taking each fava bean, free the bean from its individual shell. You will probably need to use a finger nail to start the peeling process. Fava beans can feel a bit slimy so rinse your hands and the beans as you go.