Fabulous Fava Beans

The fava beans have been ripening over the past two weeks and I’ve been processing many pints for the freezer but I’ve also been mixing them with other vegetables of this early summer season, sugar snap peas, beets, cauliflower and mint.  Three new recipes have been hits and make me glad that there are lots of favas in the freezer.  Yes, fava beans take a while to prepare—shelling, blanching, pinching the skin off each bean—but these recipes are so quick they make up for the time spent preparing fabulous favas.

Fava beans prepared

The first is a pasta recipe from Melissa Clark and her Good Appetite column in the New York Times: Cacio e Pepe with Peas and Favas.  Clark adds shelled peas and shelled fava beans to the classic Italian preparation of cheese and black pepper on spaghetti.  Watch the video that’s part of her column to see how quick and easy this recipe is.  Coarsely ground black pepper toasts briefly in melted butter, a little of the pasta water added to this mixture turns it into a sauce, the cooked pasta and grated cheeses tossed into this sauce result in perfectly coated strands of spaghetti ready for the addition of peas and favas.  Instead of English peas I used sliced sugar snap peas because that’s what’s growing in my kitchen garden.  I served this dish with a salad of radicchio and beets, great flavors to go with the pasta.

Fava, cacio, pepe pasta

Fava, cacio, pepe pasta w: salad

The second is a salad, Golden Beets, Fava Beans and Mint, from Deborah Madison’s newest cookbook, Vegetable Literacy (2013).  Sweet golden beets and earthy bright green fava beans meld with slivered mint and thinly sliced salty cheese in lemon vinaigrette.  A feast for the eye and the tongue! Madison recommends Ricotta Salata cheese but I used Pecorino Romano, another dry, salty cheese, because that’s what I had.  Feta or goat cheese would be tasty too. Madison writes that she “adores fava beans prepared this way.”  I do too.

Fava beet salad

Golden Beets, Fava Beans and Mint

from Deborah Madison, Vegetable Literacy p. 351

serves 4

4-6 smallish golden beets or a mixture of golden and Chioggia beets

1-2 pounds fresh fava beans, in their pods

Slivered mint leaves plus a few small whole ones, a heaping tablespoon

Sea Salt

Ricotta salata cut into thin shards

Freshly ground black pepper

Lemon and shallot vinaigrette

Steam the beets until tender.  Rinse briefly to cool, then slip off skins and slice the beets into wedges.  Toss them with a little vinaigrette.

Shuck the fava beans.  Drop them into boiling water for about a minute, then drain and drop them into a pan of cold water to cool. Pinch off the skins and moisten the beans with a little of the vinaigrette.

Toss the beets with the favas and mint leaves.  Taste for salt, and, if dry, add a little more vinaigrette.  Heap them onto a platter.  Put  the cheese in the bowl and toss it with the remaining vinaigrette and season with pepper and salt, tuck into the vegetables and serve.

The third is a variation on Nigel Slater’s Asparagus, Fava Bean and Mint Pilaf from his cookbook Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch (2009).  I love this pilaf and love experimenting with it by adding other vegetables.  Basmati rice cooks in a skillet slicked with melted butter flavored with green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, whole cloves and cumin seeds.  The vegetables go in just before the rice is done.  This time I added cauliflower I’d roasted in oil and curry powder and sliced sugar snap peas along with the favas and served yogurt mint sauce and pear chutney on the side.  There were no leftovers.

Favas in pilaf

A Pilaf of Asparagus, Fava Beans, and Mint

from Nigel Slater, Tender: A Cook and his Vegetable Patch, p. 32

enough for 2

a couple of handfuls of shelled fava beans

a couple of handfuls
of thin asparagus spears

2/3 cup white basmati rice

4 tablespoons butter

3 bay leaves

6 very lightly crushed green cardamom pods

6 black peppercorns

a cinnamon stick


2 or 3 cloves

a small pinch cumin seeds 


a couple of thyme sprigs


4 thin green onions

3 or 4 sprigs parsley

Wash the rice three times in cold water, moving the grains around with your fingers. Cover with warm water, add a teaspoon of salt, and set aside for a good hour.

Cook the fava beans in deep, lightly salted boiling water for four minutes, until almost tender, then drain and slip off skins. Trim the asparagus and cut it into short lengths. Boil or steam for three minutes, then drain.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds, and sprigs of thyme. Stir them in the butter for a minute or two, until the fragrance wafts up. Drain the rice and add it to the warmed spices. Cover with about 1/4 inch (1cm) of water and bring to a boil. Season with salt, cover, and decrease the heat to simmer.

Finely slice the green onions. Chop the parsley.

After five minutes, remove the lid and gently fold in the asparagus, fava beans, green onions, and parsley. Replace the lid and continue cooking for five or six minutes, until the rice is tender but has some bite to it. All the water should have been absorbed. Leave, with the lid on but the heat off for two or three minutes. Remove the lid, add a tablespoon of butter if you wish, check the seasoning, and fluff gently with a fork. Serve with the yogurt sauce below.

Yogurt sauce:
Stir 2 tablespoons of chopped mint, a little salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into 3/4 cup (200g) thick, but not strained, yogurt. You could add a small clove of crushed garlic too. Spoon over the pilaf at the table. 

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7 thoughts on “Fabulous Fava Beans

  1. Yum! These all look wonderful. They would probably be tasty with edamame or lima beans, too. Happy summertime!!!!

  2. I’ve never eaten fava beans, but would love to. I haven’t tried growing them here in MT yet.
    Can you tell me how you eat your Natacha escarole? I grew it this year and so far, have just eaten the thinnings in salad. Its growing well, the heads seem to take up as much space as you give them, as soon as I thinned the plants, they grew right together again!

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