Fava Bean and Pasta Soup from Sicily (Fave E Pasta Alla Siciliana)
The creamy, pleasantly bitter flesh of fava beans has a unique flavor in the bean family. Use only young, green-fleshed fava beans. The beans that nestle in the wooly interior of the long pods should be a clear green, not at all yellow.
- 1 pound fresh, young fava beans
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 ounces salt pork, chopped
- 6 cups cold water
- 1/4 pound linguine or spaghetti, broken into 1 1/2-inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Remove the beans from the pods and pick off the little buds that appear on the side of the beans.
- Place the oil and onion in a large saucepan over low heat, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion sweats. Add the salt pork and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until it begins to color. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the beans and partially cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 25 to 40 minutes, until the beans are tender. The timing depends on the freshness of the beans.
- When the favas are tender, stir in the pasta and cook until the texture is somewhat more firm than al dente (the pasta will continue to cook in the soup, so it is best to undercook it a bit), an additional 6 minutes or so, stirring now and then to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Remove from the heat, add basil, mint, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Variation: If fresh fava beans are not to be found, you can use 5 ounces (3/4 cup) dried fava beans instead. Because dried fava beans can be very hard, they may have to be soaked, chilled, for two full days without baking soda, and you will have to change their soaking liquid several times during that period. To make this soup using dried fava beans, bring the drained, soaked beans and 8 cups water to a boil in a soup kettle; simmer until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving the bean cooking liquid; cool the beans. Remove and discard the tough outer skin from the fava beans. Follow the recipe instructions, adding the cooked fava beans and 6 cups of the bean cooking liquid just after adding the salt pork. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, and proceed with the recipe instructions.