Pasta with fava bean pesto (pesto di fave) tastes so excitingly fresh, vibrant and delicious! It’s made with fresh fava beans (also known as broad beans) together with fresh basil, walnuts, garlic, parmesan, olive oil and lemon. So tasty, it’s proof that the effort of preparing fava beans is well worth it. This pesto recipe is perfect for tossing with pasta, spreading on sourdough bread or for dressing roasted potatoes or other vegetables.
Inspired by a springtime trip to Sicily
During the springtime, pasta with fava beans is at the heart of pasta tradition in Sicily. Springtime in Italy is a glorious time to visit local street markets that are simply overflowing with are a popular spring crops such as fava beans (in Italian called fave or baccelli), artichokes, and strawberries. And this, was of course, reflected on the menus of the local restaurants. Whether it was pasta with fava beans and bacon or my personal favorite — pesto di fave. Which is exactly why, as soon June rolled around and broad beans made their first appearance on my local farmers market, I had to make my very own pesto di fave. And I simply love it. It’s fresh and vibrant and a great accompaniment to any meal. Make this simple springtime pesto your go-to recipe for fava bean season!
How to prepare fava beans
Although there are a few steps involved in preparing these giant beans, it’s actually quite easy.
- First you will want to release them from their large pod / outer shell. Now they are ready for blanching.
- Simply, bring a saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the broad beans until tender (2-3 minutes). Drain, then rinse under cold water and cool in a bowl of cold water, to stop the cooking process.
- Now you can remove them from the thick, greyish skin that is surrounding the bean. Use your nail or a paring knife to make a small split in the skin so that you can gently squeeze and pop out the tender, bright green beans from the hull.
- Now the bright green cooked broad beans are ready to be enjoyed!
How to adapt this pasta with fava beans recipe
- Do as they do in Italy, and toss the pasta with both the broad bean pesto and some whole blanched beans.
- Fry up some bacon, pancetta, guanciale or prosciutto and add it to the pasta. Or try topping with sautéed prawns.
- Saute some halved cherry tomatoes before tossing the pasta and pesto together.
- Add some blanched green asparagus.
- Or do as I do, and simply top with a little parmesan and sliced cherry tomatoes for extra freshness.
Looking for other ideas on how to cook with fava beans?
Try one of these delicious recipes:
- Fresh Fava Bean Salad with Arugula, Fennel and Radishes
- Fresh Fava Bean Dip – Green Hummus
- Easy White Beans in Tomato Sauce
- Greek Style Jumbo White Bean Salad
Pasta with Fava Bean Pesto (pesto di fave)
For the pesto (yields 1 x 250 ml glass):
- 1 kg fresh fava beans pods, shelled (ca. 270-300 g shelled)
- 30 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese (alternative pecorino)
- 20 g walnuts
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 very large handful of fresh basil leaves
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- sea salt, to taste
- pinch of red chili flakes, optional
For the pasta:
- 500 g dried pasta of choice
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water (125 ml)
To garnish (optional):
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Freshly grated parmesan
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and drop the shelled fava beans in the water. Blanch for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Drain the beans, run them under cold water and transfer them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Allow the beans to cool for several minutes, then drain and slip off their skins.
TIP: You can easily slip them out of their skin by making a small tear or incision at the top of the bean and squeezing gently. I find the best way to this is by working over a bowl.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to packet instructions, until al dente.
Just before draining, scoop out 1/2 cup (125 ml) of of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the pesto, toss and add a little pasta cooking water (one tablespoon a time) until the sauce reaches the desired consistency; tossing until well combined.
To serve, divide pasta between 4 plates and garnish with grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and cherry tomatoes (if using). Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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