Sunday Pasta™: Penne con le Fave (Fava Beans)
Absolutely Favulous! Favtastic! This is no Favrication. The kids loved it, Favmously. But before you commit to this springtime Favarite, a couple words of caution. First, to get a kid to eat fava beans, you might need to combine them with the 3 P’s: penne, pancetta, and pecorino. The 3 P’s are always guaranteed to work with kids of all ages, but I think they’re especially helpful with favas. (Of course, you can always veg out and skip the pancetta, but I cannot guarantee the outcome…)
Second, you must know that this dish is classic cucina rustica, or put another way, peasant food. That may be because it takes the patience of a saint (or someone with no money and nothing to do) to shell fresh fava beans. It’s a double shelling process: first the pod, and then the skin on the bean, and it takes a pound of favas to yield a cup. But they’re in season and delicious (if you can find them), so pour yourself a little verdicchio and embrace your inner peasant. It’s well worth it.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the oil and add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat begins to brown, but be careful not to make it crispy. Add the fava beans and cook for about 2 more minutes. Add the broth. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about 5 minutes. (Note: if you are using large fava beans, you should boil them for about 5-10 minutes prior to adding them to the pancetta.) Cook the pasta until 1 minute less then al dente, drain it, and add it to the fava bean mixture. Cook together for about a minute. (Note: if you would rather not add the broth above, retain about 1 cup of the pasta water and add some of it now.) Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese.
Ed Garrubbo, Editor