I’ve tried growing fava beans before. Rather unsuccessfully. I don’t know what the problem was. I just didn’t get many beans and the ones I did get weren’t very happy. But this year…this year… I didn’t even really try.
Beans are an excellent cover crop. They fix nitrogen into the soil, replenishing nutrients that have been sucked out during the growing season. So last November, we threw a few seeds in the soil. And then I didn’t pay them any attention at all! And holy, moly, did I get a fava bean harvest this year! I harvested at least 10 pounds of beans the first day, and there are easily another 10 pounds waiting to be picked.
So, with this rare excess of fava beans, I made a pesto-of-sorts, that couldn’t be simpler to put together. (And let me remind you that shucking fava beans is a perfect sit-with-your-feet-up activity!)
Pasta with fava bean pesto
yields 3-4 servings
I used a mortar and pestle to make my pesto, but I imagine you could also do a couple quick “whizzes” in a food processor for a similar, though less creamy result.
The fava beans used in this dish must be tender and young, as they don’t really get cooked but rather warmed while being tossed with the hot pasta. If you can only find mature, starchy fava beans, add the beans to the pot with the cooked onions and cook slowly over low heat until the beans fall into a puree. The flavor will be different, but still tasty!
- 3/4 pound dry pasta
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 small clove garlic, mortared
- 1 cup shucked fava beans (maybe 5 pounds whole favas?)
- extra virgin olive oil
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese (puh-lease don’t use that nasty stuff in the green can!!)
- about 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint (puh-lease don’t use the dried stuff!)
- kosher salt to taste
In a small pot set over medium heat, warm about 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and stir to coat. Cover and slowly cook until the onion becomes soft and translucent. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mortar, pound the garlic with a pinch of salt until it forms a smooth paste. Add about 2 Tablespoons of fava beans to the mortar and begin to pound them so that most of the beans fall into a puree. Continue adding beans and pounding until you end up with a “puree” that contains about 60% bean puree and 40% broken bean pieces.
Remove the bean puree to a large bowl and stir in lots of freshly cracked black pepper, the cooked onion, mint, a few Tablespoons of olive oil, the Pecorino, and salt to taste.
Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water according to the package’s instructions. Pour the hot, drained pasta into the bowl containing the pesto and toss well to coat.
Serve along with another grating of Pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil. This is the epitome of spring!