The first recipe in my Regions of Italy project is Pasta con le Fave, or Pasta with Fava Beans. This dish is typical of the Vomano valley of Abruzzo. Although the original recipe calls for marjoram, fresh marjoram can be difficult to find. Oregano is related to marjoram and is more readily available. Note that it’s also stronger in flavor, so you may want to cut back a little on it, if strong herb flavor isn’t your thing.
The pasta called for here is maltagliati, which literally means “badly cut.” They are flat, very wide, short noodles that look like someone got drunk, took a pair of scissors, and went crazy on some dough. You may have a difficult time finding this pasta (although it may be available where specialty Italian products are sold), so you can improvise: cook some pappardelle, place them in a bowl, and use kitchen shears to snip them into squares.
The original recipe did not indicate how well the onion should be sautéed, so I decided on soft and translucent. It also said nothing about whether or not to skin the fava beans. Now, here’s the thing about fava beans. When you remove fresh favas from their pods, they have a skin, or jacket. Although this skin is edible, it can sometimes be tough and cause gas. It’s a much more pleasant experience to eat favas without their skin. The creators of this recipe may have assumed that the readers know to remove the skins, but that’s not always the case. So, I’ve included that step in my instructions.
This is very much a peasant dish, but it’s regal in its simplicity and respect of ingredients. Enjoy!
Pasta con le Fave
Pasta and Fava Beans
Recipe adapted from La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). Published by Rizzoli Publications.
Makes 4 servings.
2 pounds fava beans, shelled
¼ cup olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, diced (or vegetarian bacon, chopped)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram or oregano
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup tomato puree
12 ounces maltagliati
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with very cold water and set it near the stove. Add the fava beans to the boiling water and blanch them until they float to the top. When they do, scoop them out and transfer them to the cold water; let them sit a minute. Pop the beans out of their skins (you can use a paring knife to cut a slit in the skin, if needed). Place the beans in a bowl and set aside.Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the pancetta and sauté for a minute. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the fava beans, marjoram, 1 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, about 15 minutes. If the pan gets dry, add a little water. Stir in the tomato puree.Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and stir. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Do not drain it.
When the pasta is done, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and add it to the pan with the vegetables. Mix in about ½ cup of the pasta water. Stir and cook another minute or two to thicken.Serve with or without grated cheese.