There are a few veggies that scream spring – asparagus comes immediately to mind. But of all the treats that come to our local farmers market at this time of year, fava beans may be the most welcome. We discovered them when we moved to California years ago and we were hooked right away. Our neighborhood farmers market had beautiful, fresh favas just begging to go home with us and we were helpless to resist.
Our local organic farmers can be counted on to produce plenty of these beautiful legumes. Favas are good sources of Riboflavin, Niacin, Phosphorus and Patassium as well as Folate, Copper and Manganese. They’re also relatively protein rich. But unlike other beans, fresh favas aren’t a terribly good source of fiber.
Preparing favas can be a pain in the ass. The pods, while edible, aren’t the point. The jewel we eat is buried deep inside a shell inside the pod. Getting the beans out of the pod isn’t the problem. It’s that shell around the tender green bean that drives you nuts. We suggest blanching them first to make those shells softer and thus easier to remove. If you blanch before peeling, you’ll have a much easier time of it. What’s left after all the work of shelling, blanching and peeling is a tender, beautiful green flat bean that is delicious either raw or lightly cooked.
Favas are great on their own with a little butter or olive oil and salt. We like to use them in risotto in place of spring peas or asparagus, added near the end just before serving to preserve their fresh taste and delicate texture. Here, we pair them with fresh ricotta and mint in a classic pairing, tossed in pasta and finished with a bit of fresh lemon zest and cracked black pepper.
Rigatoni with Fava Beans and Fresh Ricotta
3 pounds fresh fava beans unshelled (about 1 pound shelled fresh fava beans)
8 ounces rigatoni
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, well cleaned and minced
10-15 fresh torn mint leaves
Zest of one lemon
1 cup fresh ricotta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, this will be used to blanch the fava beans and cook the pasta.
Remove the fava beans from the pods and place the beans in a bowl. When the water comes to a boil add a couple tablespoons of salt and then add the fava beans. Blanch the beans for 1 minute then remove from the water using a mesh slotted spoon or a small mesh strainer. When the beans are cool enough to handle, 1-2 minutes, gently tear the top of the pod using your finger and gently press the bean out of the shell. Place the beans in a small bowl and set aside.
Bring the water back up to a rapid bowl and add the dry pasta, cook according to the directions, 8-12 minutes.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and bring up to heat. Add the leeks and sauté until translucent, about 4-6 minutes, do not brown the leeks. Add the fava beans and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Once the pasta is done, drain in a colander and place the pasta back into the pot. Add the sautéed leeks and fava beans. Add the remaining two tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed, to the pasta and season with salt and pepper. Add the mint and the lemon zest.
Either plate the pasta or place the pasta in serving bowl, and top with the fresh ricotta cheese, about 1/4 cup per serving.