When fava beans are in season, it is only right to honor the fresh produce in a stunning pasta dish made simply with tomatoes and pancetta.
A few years ago, I never minded the work behind shelling and cooking fava beans. I could have shelled tons of them as long as my hands would allow me. You wouldn’t mind doing it either if you have the best kitchen assistant working beside you. My then toddler daughter would pull a chair beside me, shell her own little mountain of pods while she bombards me with every question she can think of, like what I say is the only thing that matters to her.
So it’s fava season again and I can’t stop myself from purchasing a big bag whenever I see them in the vegetable stalls. The season doesn’t last long so I try to make the most of them whenever they are around. The downside is that getting the beans takes a lot of work because first they have to be taken out of the pods one by one, then blanched for a couple of minutes, transferred to an ice bath then taken out of the waxy coating one by one. So if you are the one who took out those beans, they are quite precious!
Here’s one of my favorite recipes whenever I have fresh fava beans. After going through the whole process of taking out the beans, the pasta recipe is already quick and easy. You can change the type of pasta too. I use short pasta for this because it stays better with the sauce.
- 3 kilos fava beans 6.6 pounds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 150 grams diced pancetta 5.3 ounces
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 12 cherry or datterini tomatoes halved
- 400 grams penne or other kinds of pasta (14 ounces)
- Fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- Grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano to taste
- Prepare the fava beans by shelling the pods. Discard the pods and keep the beans. Over medium - high heat, boil a pot of water. Towards the boiling point of the water, prepare a medium-sized bowl with a lot of ice and water. Blanch the beans in the boiling water for a couple of minutes then with a slotted spoon, transfer them to the bowl with ice to stop the cooking. One by one, squeeze out the inner beans from the coating. Discard the coating and set the fava beans aside.
- Over medium - high heat, boil some water again for the pasta. While waiting for it to boil, prepare the sauce.
- Over low heat, in a wide saucepan, toast the pancetta for about 3 minutes then add the garlic. Toast for another couple of minutes or until the garlic and pancetta are toasted.
- Pour some extra virgin olive oil in the saucepan then add the tomatoes. Toss for 5 minutes then add the fava beans. Ladle some water, about 1/4 cup, from water you are you boiling for the pasta. Season with salt and pepper then turn off the fire when the liquid is reduced.
- If the water for the pasta is boiling, add some salt then cook the pasta. Follow the number of minutes indicated in the box until al dente.
- When the pasta is cooked, mix it with the sauce on low heat. Sprinkle the parsley.
- Serve immediately. When serving, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and add some Pecorino according to taste.
Rowena Dumlao - Giardina is the author and photographer of Apron and Sneakers and The Chosen Table. Besides her blog, she's also a recipe developer and a travel writer for other food and travel sites.