Here's a springtime recipe in anticipation of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market starting up on June 19. I'd never cooked fava beans before, but when my son grabbed one from a stall at the Saturday Farmers Market and tried to chomp it, I was intrigued, so we bought a bag.
One reason I've shied away from this springtime delicacy is the labor involved: the beans need to be shelled and then each bean needs to be blanched and peeled. I realized though that for a three year old, shelling beans is fun, not labor (as is foraging for mint in our back alleyway, a perfect partner for these beans). I was also emboldened by Jamie Oliver's claim that favas (Brits call them broad beans) don't required peeling if they are small. It was worth a try.
We had some leftover Easter ham frozen away, which I diced up, along with the mint.
In keeping with the child labor theme of the meal, I recruited my seven year old daughter to make us fresh pasta,
while I prepared an easy sauce to go along with it. I sauteed the ham with the mint, some baby spinach, and a splash of white vermouth,
cooked the fava beans along with the pasta, and tossed the pasta in the sauce.
The final dish was delicious and the mint-flavored ham went perfectly with the fresh fava beans. But I must admit that the beans would have been even tastier if peeled. Another task to start training the kids to do.
Fresh Pasta with Fava Beans and Ham
For the pasta
3 cups flour
pinch of salt
1. Combine the ingredients in a food processor and mix. The final dough should be moist enough that it just starts to come together in a ball. Use a little more flour or a dribble of water to achieve the right consistency.
2. Pat the dough together into a log, cut into about 12 pieces, and pat flat. Set a large pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
3. Use a hand crank pasta machine to roll out the dough, starting with the widest setting and narrowing it by increments of 2, ending on the second to last thinnest setting. Then cut the dough into fettucini.
4. When the sauce is ready, cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water until the fettucini are just cooked but still have some bite, about 2 minutes. You can cook the fava beans with the pasta if you are not planning to peel the individual beans.
For the sauce
1 lb of fava bean pods, or as many as you are willing to shell
5-6 springs of mint
3/4 cup cubed ham
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
~6 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste
1. Remove the fava beans from the pods. If you are willing to do the extra work, blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water and then remove the inner green parts of the beans from the paler casing. Or just reserve the unpeeled beans and cook them with the pasta.
2. In a large pan that can hold all of the pasta, melt the butter and warm the olive oil. Add the cubed ham and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped mint and continue to cook for another minute. Add the baby spinach and the fava beans, if you bothered to peel them, and cook until the spinach just starts to wilt. Add the vermouth, cook one more minute, and then turn off the heat.
3. Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce to coat. Serve immediately with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.