fava beans, four ways

Posted on June 2, 2011

How do I love thee fava bean? Let me count the ways. Sauteed, over pasta with parmesan, on pizza with onions and cream, pureed into a soup and chilled.

Jordan first introduced me to fava beans last spring with one of his favorite pasta dishes. He raved about the buttery and fresh quality of these beans. After trying his pasta, I was also hooked. This spring we’ve received several bunches of fava beans in our CSA and we’ve experimented with new recipes from a chilled soup to pizza.

Fava beans are available only in spring. They come in a large, green, slightly fuzzy pod. You need to first remove the individual beans from the pod and then remove their tough exterior skin. It is a fair amount of work to shell fava beans, but they are worth the effort. When purchasing the beans keep in mind that you should buy more than you think you’ll need since the actual size of the bean is small compared to the size of its pod. Now for the recipes!

Sauteed Fava Beans with Parmesan 

1 lb fava beans
1 clove garlic, sliced
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper, chili flake
shaved parmesan cheese (we like to shave slivers with a vegetable peeler)

Shell the beans. In a saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flake. Saute briefly. Add the fava beans. Saute until the beans are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes and add lemon zest. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice.

This dish is good as a side or as main course with some bread and salad.

Pasta with Fava Beans, Parmesan and Fresh Herbs
1/2 lb dried or fresh pasta
1 lb fava beans
1 clove garlic
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper, chili flake
grated parmesean
chopped fresh herbs (we like parsley)

Boil a pot of salted water. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. If using fresh pasta, saute the fava beans first. Saute the fava beans following the recipe above. Drain the pasta, reserving a little bit of the pasta water. Add the pasta and parmesan to the saute pan. Toss to melt the cheese and distribute the beans. Top with fresh herbs to serve.

Pizza with Fava Beans, Spring Onions and Creme Fraiche 
1 ball fresh pizza dough (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell fresh pizza dough that is pretty darn good and saves you an hour)
1/2 lb fava beans
1/2 spring onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup creme fraiche (you could also use marscapone or ricotta)
salt, pepper, olive oil


Heat an oven to 425 – 450 degrees. We have a pizza stone in the bottom of our oven that we cook our pizzas directly on top of, but if you don’t have a pizza stone use a baking sheet dusted with corn meal. Roll out your pizza dough. Spread the creme fraiche in a even layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle evenly with onions, fava beans and salt. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Top with fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

We had our first pizza with cream at Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission. It was a life-changing experience. The creme fraiche offers subtle tanginess and richness without overpowering the flavors of the vegetables. If you’ve never had a pizza sans cheese, I recommend you give it a go. This pizza is amazing, and wouldn’t be half bad with a bit of prosciutto on top as well.

Chilled Fava Bean Soup
2 lbs fava beans
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
creme fraiche and lemon juice, for serving

Shell and peel the beans. Peel and dice the onion. Thinly slice the garlic. In a dutch oven or heavy stock pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until quite soft, 10 – 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook for two more minutes. Season with salt. Add the fava beans and cook for two more minutes. Add just enough stock to cover the beans. Chill the remaining stock. Cook the beans until tender. Puree in a blender until smooth, adding the leftover chilled stock until the desired consistency is reached. You might not use all of the stock. Check for seasoning. Chill and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and a squeeze of lemon juice.

This soup is really simple, healthy and easy to make. We served it at our cooking demonstration a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit. We got more compliments on this soup than any other dish we prepared. In my mind, it means a lot when a chilled soup is the star of the show. This soup is not the heartiest of dishes and so it would be the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat or fish.

Just in case it’s not totally obvious, we love fava beans in pretty much any incarnation. They are delicious and only around for a short time so go out and enjoy some while you can! I’m still brainstorming a fava bean dessert …

-Emily