Falling for Favas

Spaghetti with Fresh Fava Bean Pesto

I’m finally back from Singapore, and I have to be honest: Although I enjoyed my two previous trips there, I just wasn’t feeling the love this time around. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the travel experience, but as I strolled through the glittering, air-conditioned shops of Orchard Road I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to come home.

Of course one of the reasons for my homesickness had to do with food. There’s nothing wrong with Singapore’s cuisine; in fact, a few months ago I told you all about its fantastic hawker stands and amazing ethnic eats. But I was craving my local spring vegetables. Fresh greens, asparagus, peas…I couldn’t wait to get back to New York and stir up some seasonal treats of my own.

So as soon as I returned to Brooklyn I drove straight to Fairway and stocked up on piles of vegetables, including a bag full of fresh fava beans.

It’s funny that I was so fixated on favas last week, because I don’t like beans. It’s true. As a child my stomach sank at the sight of my mother’s pasta fagioli, and it still does. (Sorry, Mom!) A few weeks ago, in an attempt to cure my aversion to them, I cooked a big batch of cannellini beans with fresh herbs and dressed them with olive oil. Nope, didn’t work.

But for some reason I had greater hopes for these favas. I wanted to utilize them in a pasta-related way, and after a bit of thought I decided to purée them into a pesto. It was remarkably easy. I simply threw the shelled beans into my food processor with a bit of mint and garlic, a squeeze of lemon, an ample amount of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. 

When combined with the cooked spaghetti, the pesto released all the potential lurking in those little beans. Now I realize that my problems with beans might be more related to texture than anything else. The silky, smooth sauce gave off hints of light, nutty flavor as it clung to the spaghetti strands. As I twirled bite after bite onto my fork, it felt great to be home.

Recipe for Spaghetti with Fava Bean Pesto

  • 1 pound of dried spaghetti
  • 1 cup of shelled fava beans (see prep method below)
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 of a fresh lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Shell the fava beans from their long pods. Add fava beans to the boiling water. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the fava beans from the boiling water. Reserve the cooking water, as you can use it again for the pasta. Remove the thin outer shell from the fava beans; it should slip off very easily. You will be left with small, bright green, little pods.

Bring the cooking water back to a boil and add the spaghetti to the pot. While the pasta cooks, turn your attention to the pesto. Using a food processor, purée the fava beans, mint, garlic, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice together. Slowly add the olive oil while pulsing the ingredients together, until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the pesto, and season it to your liking. I always spend a lot of time tinkering with my pestos. In this recipe, I have used very little garlic because I didn’t want it to overwhelm the dish. Feel free to increase it if you like.

When the pasta is ready, drain it but reserve at least 1 cup of cooking water. Add the pesto sauce to the drained spaghetti and stir together. If the pesto sauce clumps together, slowly add the cooking water and stir until the pesto is evenly distributed.

Spoon the pasta into individual bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh black pepper. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to each serving. Serves 4 as a main dish. Enjoy!

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Nicki said,

    This looks fantastic — has your farmshare started yet?

  2. 2

    Christina said,

    Our first pick-up is this weekend! I can’t wait. I hope you’re enjoying it again this year!


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