Fava beans have been savored for millennia: mashed with spices in the Middle East, puréed with chicory in Southern Italy, smoked with pork in Northern Europe, fermented into paste in China, fried for snacks in South America. More recently, a cinematic carnivore savored them with an unorthodox liver, but at least he compensated with a nice Chianti.
If our preferences vary, our preparations won’t. We’ll all have to peel the pods (press along the seam and split it open), and then boil the beans for 30 seconds to remove the skins. When choosing those pods, make sure they’re bright green, firm, and small. Bulging pods mean old, and possibly bitter, beans. Prepped and ready to go, those salad plates, risotto bowls, and dip platters will soon pulse with one of late spring’s joys.
A lot of that joy gets spread around at the newly re-opened, re-located Orfino’s (1120 Pleasantville Rd, Briarcliff Manor 914-941-7353; orfinosrestaurant.com), where Chef Michael Orfino, Jr. serves up modern interpretations of his fava-deluged childhood. “My parents and grandparents always cooked with them,” he recalls. “We ate them in green salads, and lots of minestrone soup.” Those stalwarts don’t appear on his spring menu, but never mind; favas with orecchiette pasta, pork ragu, escarole, and house-made mozzarella do, as well as silky fava-dill crostini. Oh, favas with liver won’t be appearing either, but there’ll definitely be some very nice Chiantis.
Pasta e Fagioliâ€‹
Courtesy of Michael Orfino Jr., Orfino’s
3 lbs fava beans, shelled
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive
oil, plus more for serving
2 thick slices lean bacon or
pancetta, cut crosswise into
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise
then cut crosswise into ¼-inch-
1 medium onion, in ½-inch dice
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 3-inch-long rosemary sprig
1 qt chicken stock or
1 cup tubetti or other small pasta
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper, to taste
2 mint leaves
In a large saucepan of boiling water, add shelled fava beans and blanch until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and plunge beans into ice-water bath to refresh. Peel beans. In same saucepan, heat olive oil over medium flame until shimmering. Add bacon and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Add carrot, onion, garlic, and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to boil, and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until carrot is tender, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, in medium saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain. Add pasta, mint, and fava beans to soup, discard rosemary sprig and season soup with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve, passing cheese at the table.