Favas: A Lifestyle Choice
Beyond the obvious Silence of the Lambs reference, favas are a challenge. They're a lot of work to prepare, no matter how good they are they require a certain "lifestyle" if you you want to have them very often. I typically make a point to go to Ristorante Bacco during the season to enjoy their fava crostini. This, incidentally, is where I learned of the fava bean's affinity for sheep's milk cheese, which informs the recipe below.
The recipe is also informed by my CSA box, which bore a bagload of favas last week, so fresh and beautiful that a manageable recipe had to be found. Also in the box: broccoli di Cicco. My friend Jude sent me a recipe from Mariquita Farms, which I naturally had to porkify. The results are addictive. I can't say this is totally worth buying favas for, but I will say that I peeled them (both times) in front of the computer, while catching up on blogs, newsletters, and other e-reading.
This recipe made plenty for a dinner for four adults, and was lovely over our new favorite multi-grain spaghettini with a glass of crisp, cold pinot gris.
Pancetta, Fava & Broccoli di Cicco Pasta Sauce
1 T EVOO
2 slices pancetta, preferably thick-cut, diced into lardons
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T finely chopped oregano, or ~2 t minced
1.5 cups low sodium, low fat chicken broth
2 cups cooked, peeled fava beans*
1.5 cups broccoli di Cicco, or substitute broccoli florets
1 lb. dried w/w or multigrain thin spaghetti or fettuccine
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Roman cheese, plus more for grating at table
* Peel the outer pod off the fava beans. Unless your favas are small and fresh, blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water, drain and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water. When they are cool, drain and peel the skin from the bean. Favas are much easier to peel when they're blanched.
Reserve the boiling water to blanch the broccoli. If using broccoli di Cicco, remove the leaves and chop coarsely. Then cut the stalks into 1/2" dice, keeping the florets intact. Blanch for 1 minute, add the leaves, stir, then drain and plunge into ice water.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
Meanwhile, heat a heavy medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, allow to heat, then add the pancetta. Saute the pancetta until it is slightly browned. Add the garlic, saute about 2 minutes till the garlic is just beginning to brown, stir in the oregano, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, taste and adjust salt. Add 1.5 cups of fava beans and simmer for about 3 minutes.
When the pasta water comes to a boil, salt generously and add pasta. Cook according to package directions. Pour yourself a glass of wine, and one for your partner, too.
Turn off the heat on the pasta sauce and puree with a stick blender or in a standing blender. Return the sauce to the pan, turn the heat to medium and add the remaining favas, the drained broccoli, 1/4 cup cheese and several grinds of black pepper (to taste). Cook for 3-5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water for the sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding pasta water as necessary to thin the sauce. Remove to a warmed serving dish, garnish with a few sprigs of fresh oregano, and serve with remaining cheese to be grated at table.
Or, if your house is like ours, one of you will dish the pasta into bowls from the stove while the other dices pasta into manageable toddler lengths, then sit down to enjoy dinner together.
Riff references: Two Small Farms Newsletter