Orecchiette with Fava Beans and English Peas


By Fran Gage
May 14, 2010

Even though I planted them last October, my fava bean plants only have flowers and my English peas are still flat pods. Knowing it will be a while before I can harvest my crop, I was excited to see fresh fava beans and peas at the farmer’s market. The small favas are tender and sweet, unlike the larger beans later in the season when they tend to be starchy. Small peas, with minimal time between farm and table, burst with flavor. Both are highlights of this pasta dish.

I decided to use a medium extra-virgin olive oil with some bitterness and pungency that would offer a pleasant counterpoint to the sweetness of the vegetables. The grated goat cheese on top adds a little zip.

Fava beans require a two-step preparation, but don’t let that discourage you. Their incomparable taste will reward your work.

4 to 6 servings

3 pounds fresh fava beans
3 pounds fresh English peas
l pound orecchiette pasta
6 tablespoons The Olive Oil Source medium extra virgin olive oil
fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
grated aged goat cheese for finishing

Prepare the fava beans and peas: Grasp a fava bean pod with index fingers on the top seam straddling a bean within and thumbs on the opposite seam meeting at the center of the bean. Push the pod with your thumbs to pop the bean from the pod. Work your way down the pod, then move on to the next pod.

Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot with a steamer basket. Add the fava beans and steam until the outside skins whiten and begin to split, 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the size of the beans. Remove the basket and refresh the beans with cold water. To remove the skin from the beans, nick the ends opposite where the beans were attached to the pods with a thumb nail and squeeze out the beans. Set aside.

Shell the peas and set aside.

Cook the pasta and finish the dish: Bring about 5 quarts of generously salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and stir it a few times to separate the pieces. Cook until almost al dente, about 10 minutes. Taste one to be sure. Add the peas and cook 1 more minute.

Drain the pasta and peas. Add the fava beans, olive oil, fleur de sel, and black pepper. Toss until all glistens. Spoon into hot bowls and top with a few gratings of cheese. Serve immediately.

Publisher's Note: Simple as it is, this recipe is all about the delicate balance of a few seasonally-fresh ingredients. So, it’s essential to use the best and most flavorful you can find. We tested the recipe using The Olive Oil Source Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The dish would pair nicely with a Pinot Noir or Barolo.