What Are Fava Beans and How to Prepare Them

fava beans

Richard W.M. Jones / Wikimedia Commons

Fava beans are broad green legumes that grow in long pods and are popular in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Fava beans are almost always removed from the pods before preparing them, although it is possible to braise whole fava bean pods.

Fava beans are notoriously time-consuming to prepare because of the shelling process. Removing the beans from the pods is easy enough. But each individual bean also is enclosed in a shell. Removing the fava beans from their shells requires blanching them first.

Fava beans are used in a number of different recipes and can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques. They are frequently braised and used in stews, sautéed, or marinated and served in salads.

Fava beans can be used as the main ingredient in puréed soups. They are also frequently served with pasta or risotto.

Cooking with Fava Beans

A simple recipe for fava beans would be to sauté them with bacon or pancetta until tender and then serve topped with melted butter and shaved pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Or, to use fava beans in a pasta recipe, you'd first boil water, add Kosher salt, and blanch the beans for three to five minutes. Like most green vegetables and legumes, favas will take on a bright green color when they're done, and they'll be tender when you bite them.

You can either drain the water and boil new water, which is silly and time-consuming or simply fish the beans out with a slotted spoon and save the water for making your pasta, a much smarter and ecologically friendly alternative.

So go ahead and add your pasta to the still-salted, still-boiling water. Farfalle, aka bow-tie pasta, is a great choice, as are conchiglie or rigatoni.

Meanwhile, it is time to shell the beans. This is done by sort of squeezing the bean between your fingers at one end and pushing it through the outer white skin at the other end. Out comes the bean, and into your compost bowl goes the skin.

Next, sauté some bacon in a heavy saucepan, pour off the excess fat, add the beans, and cook a little longer until they're at the tenderness you like. You can stir in some cream, maybe some ricotta, then add the cooked pasta and mix until it is thoroughly coated with sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve right away.

Cold Favas and Snacks

Fava beans do well as a salad ingredient. You can't go wrong in the spring if you serve your prepared beans with fresh, cooked asparagus on a nest of fresh greens. Add feta or goat cheese for a special oomph.

You can also roast your cooked broad beans in the oven for about 20 minutes or so. For the last 5 minutes, top them with shredded Parmesan, or even soy sauce. Once cooled, the favas can be eaten by the handful, just as they are.