Welcome to June. I love it, but I feel like everything is trying to overrun me! My garden is out of control with the rain, longer days and sort of warmer weather. I can’t keep up with all the social events going on as folks are so happy to get out of their houses and try to see everyone before all the summer vacations start. And, since I’m a teacher, it’s end of school year madness trying to finish up all the work with the children. So, last weekend after all the morning glory was yanked out of my beds (I won’t mention the choice words I uttered as I pulled those detestable things out only to know they’ll be back in days), the friends had been visited and the work caught up on, I carved out a space to celebrate fava beans. These are one of my favorite spring vegetables and I’m so happy when they arrive that I don’t mind the work of cooking them. They have to be shucked twice, so you need to be willing to settle in for a while, but somehow, I find the work comforting. I stood in my kitchen shelling the skin off the beans, listening to my dog’s quiet snores as he slumbered in the corner and I felt at peace. There’s something about those quiet kitchen chores that can help you feel relaxed and useful at the same time.
I made this dish with homemade paperdelle pasta and while I think it’s worth the effort, it’s not entirely necessary. You could use any purchased, wide pasta. There are a few steps to this dish, but it’s not too difficult to accomplish. The pasta tasted a bit bland at first, but when plated with the fava bean puree, it was fantasticly delicious, so trust the process.
About 1 hour not including making pasta or prepping fava beans
(Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables and Made in Italy by Giorgio Locatelli)
1 lb dried or fresh pasta
2 tbsp grated Pecorino Sardo
3-4 oz of arugula
3 lbs fava beans in shells
For the butter sauce:
1 cup butter (cut all but 2 pats of butter into small cubes and keep in fridge)
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 black peppercorns
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp heavy cream
For the fava bean puree:
all but 2 handfuls of the above fava beans, shelled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 small cloves garlic
1 small sprig rosemary
1 small sprig thyme
First, prep the fava beans. Take the beans out of the shells. There is a skin that needs to be removed from each individual bean and the easiest way I’ve found to do this is to bring a large pot of water to boil and blanch the beans in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Immediately put the beans into ice water to stop them from cooking and when cool, shell each bean by slipping off the skin. Separate out two good size handfuls and set aside. Use the rest to make the following puree.
Warm about 1/4 cup olive oil in shallow, nonreactive pan. Add the beans and salt lightly. Add the garlic, peeled and chopped very fine, the rosemary and thyme and a splash of water. Cook the beans at a slow simmer, stirring and tasting frequently, for 25-30 minutes, until they are completely soft, pale green and easily mashed into a puree. Add another splash of water from time to time or a little more olive oil to prevent the beans from drying out. When the beans are done, discard the herb stems and mash the beans into a puree. I passed the mix throught a fine sieve because it’s not quite enough to go in a food processor. Taste for seasoning and add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice to balance the flavors. If it seems dry, add more olive oil then cover to keep warm and set aside. You can make the butter sauce during the time the beans are cooking for the puree.
Melt one of the pats of butter in a pan (set the other pat of butter aside for cooking the reserved fava beans in later). Add the shallots and sweat them for 2-3 minutes with the peppercorns, then add the wine and reduce that by 3/4. Add the cream and reduce for another 2 minutes or so. Slowly whisk in the cold butter cubes, one at a time being sure the last one has melted before adding the next one. You should do this over low heat. When all the butter has been incorporated, pass sauce through a fine sieve into a warm container and keep in a warm place.
For the pasta:
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, melt the other pat of butter in a large saute pan and add the reserved 2 handfuls of fava beans. Season lightly and set aside.
When water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions or if fresh, for a couple of minutes, stirring the whole time, until al dente. Drain, reserving the cooking water.
Put the pan containing the fava beans back on a low heat and add the pasta, with a little of its cooking water. Toss, add the pecorino, some pepper, most of the arugula (reserve a handful or so for garnish) and 3-4 ladlefuls of the butter sauce. Toss a little more until nicely combined, adding more sauce or cooking water as wanted.
To serve the pasta, divide the puree up evenly between your plates and spread it on eac