Fava Beans are a sure sign of Spring in Italy and they are ubiquitous this time of year. They are a powerhouse bean, meaning they are full of protein, iron and fiber, and are sometimes called the "meat of the poor."
In Rome, fava beans are eaten as a rite of Spring in a special meal on May 1st when they are prepared in a salad with soft pecorino cheese as Romans head out to the countryside. Some people even carry a fava bean for good luck and it is believed that in doing so, one will never be without the essentials of life.
In a variation on the Roman recipe, I made a puree that can be eaten on crostini (toasted bread) or as a pasta sauce as I did today.
Fava Bean Puree
Widely adapted from Bonny Wolf (NPR's Kitchen Window Archive)
I suggest using a pasta with ridges that will hold the sauce well. I used cavatappi, which incidentally means corkscrew. Because I like to vary the types of grain we eat, this pasta was made with Kamut (read an interesting history of kamut here.) For a vegetarian dish, omit the pancetta but add additional pecorino cheese or some salt.
2 lbs (1 kilo) fresh fava beans (once shelled, this should render 2 cups.)
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup pancetta, cubed
Remove the fava beans from their pods and set some water to boil. Boil the beans for 10 minutes and drain. While the beans are cooking, fry the pancetta until lightly browned and drain on paper towels. Put the hot beans into a food processor along with the crème fraîche, pepper and pecorino cheese. Blend until smooth. Combine the puree with the cooked pasta and sprinkle with pancetta and additional pecorino romano to serve.
This makes enough for 2 - 3 servings.
If making crostini, toast a high quality bread and spread with the puree, then sprinkle the pancetta on top.