Spring in Rome: Fava Beans

P1110771On our way south to Anzio last Saturday we saw farmers selling fava beans. We didn’t buy any because we didn’t want them to spoil in the car. We saw a huge basket of them in the restaurant in which we had lunch, which made us hungry for fava beans, of course, but we never saw another vendor! Such is life.

Fava beans always make me think of Hannibal Lecter’s quote in The Silence of the Lambs: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” If that doesn’t turn you off of fava beans, nothing will!

I love fava beans, but I don’t remember tasting fresh beans. Michael enjoyed several meals with fava beans last spring, but I wasn’t in Italy then. By the time I returned, the farmers’ market at Campo de’ Fiori no longer offered fava beans for sale. Gloom!

After seeing the beans on Saturday we visited the Campo de’ Fiori market on Sunday and found one vendor selling favas. Joy! We bought about three pounds (1.5 kilos) and spent the next hour or so preparing them. We ended up with about one cup of cooked beans. Fresh fava beans are a lot of work, but they were worth the effort!

If you can find fresh favas, here’s what you do:


Remove the beans from the long, gnarly pods.

Remove the beans from the sac surrounding them by pinching the sac’s skin and popping the bean out. Try to keep the kernel whole. For two people this takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the sac surrounding them by pinching the sac’s skin and popping the bean out.

1. Remove the beans from the long, gnarly pods. Each pod has about five or six beans in it. For two people this takes about 45 minutes for three pounds.

2. Blanch the beans for about one to two minutes, depending on their size. Have an ice bath ready.

3. Immediately immerse the beans in ice water until they are cold.

4. Remove the inner bean from the sac
surrounding it by pinching the sac’s skin and popping out the bright green bean. I kept breaking the kernels into two pieces, but it’s betteer to keep them whole because the smaller pieces cook too fast. For two people this takes 20 to 30 minutes.

5. If you’re not going to cook the beans immediately, put them in the refrigerator until just before dinner is served.

6. Add the tons of waste to your compost pile.

You can find many recipes for fava beans, but this one is easy and delicious.

P11107671. Mince one or two garlic cloves, depending upon how many beans you are cooking. Also mince some mint to sprinkle over the beans when you have finished sautéing them.

2. Melt a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan.

3. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.

4. Add the beans and sauté for a minute or two, depending on the size.

5. Sprinkle the mint onto the beans.

6. Serve the beans immediately.

7. Sigh with happiness!

P1110770We didn’t eat our fava beans with liver (a census taker’s or anyone else’s). We had ours with a juicy roast chicken cooked with thinly sliced lemons under the skin and lemon halves, rosemary, oregano, and whole garlic in the cavity. And we didn’t have our fava beans with Chianti. We had them with Sanct Valentin sauvignon from Alto Adige in Northern Italy. Excellent!

Celebrate spring, and savor fresh fava beans as often as you can! La vita è buona!


This entry was posted in Italy food and restaurants, Rome seasons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Spring in Rome: Fava Beans

  1. Olivia Graham says:

    I didn’t think I even liked fava beans, but now I just might:-).

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