Broad beans (also known as fava beans) are in season from April to September, and are excellent in everything from salads to stews. This recipe includes the broad bean in a lovely, summery pasta dish that takes advantage of several classic flavour combinations, and which has a relatively subtle taste overall. It’s really simple to prepare, and is great for a week-day supper or weekend lunch.
I should point out that the recipe below does include an instruction to double-pod the broad beans, something that I have come to realise is the subject of prolonged consideration – and surprising importance – to some people. Having said that, it seems clear that almost everyone agrees that a broad bean should be removed from its pod (although I have found a few recipes that include the whole thing, especially when it’s very young and fresh). The controversy (if it can really be considered as such), seems to arise when it comes to suggesting that the skin that covers each individual bean be removed – a relatively simple process that involves cooking or blanching the beans, and then slitting the skin with your nail and popping out the bean inside. Well, a quick google search seems to split the Italians (and British) who – as a general rule – do not remove the skin of the broad bean, from the French (and Americans) who do.
So, it’s perhaps an indication of my somewhat confused national identity that I really do prefer to remove the skin, which I find to have a peculiarly strong flavour that I don’t enjoy very much. Indeed, this is so much the case that learning to do just that actually transformed the broad bean from something I would actively avoid, to something that I now love to eat. Yet there are many people who take great pleasure in the deep earthy taste contained in that second skin. I also think – and this is a totally different argument – that they look so much nicer when the dull greyish skin is removed to reveal the beautiful, shiny, bright green bean inside. Anyway, at the end of the day it is just a matter of preference, and you absolutely shouldn’t feel obliged to double-pod, especially if your broad beans are particularly fresh and / or really quite small.
Recipe: Pasta with Ricotta, Broad Beans and Mint
750g broad beans in their pods
You should have about 250g of beans once you’ve taken them out of the pods
Pasta – enough for two people
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
A small bunch of mint
250g ricotta cheese
Grated pecorino cheese
Serves two people
Remove the beans from their pods and cook them in boiling water (with a little added salt) for 7 – 10 minutes, until tender. Drain the beans and rinse under cold running water. Remove the skins from any beans that are larger than your thumbnail (if you want to, that is).
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the pasta, which should be cooked after twelve minutes or so (depending on what you’re using).
Peel and finely slice the garlic, and put it in a shallow pan with the olive oil, and let it soften over a moderate heat without colouring. Remove the mint leaves from their stems and chop them roughly, then stir them into the softening garlic. Tip in the beans and then the ricotta, in dollops. Add the drained pasta and fold the mixture together lightly with a fork.
Divide between two bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and grated pecorino.