If all you know about fava beans is that Hannibal Lecter favored them with a nice Chianti, it’s time to get better acquainted (with favas, that is). They’re an ancient member of the pea family and have a nutty taste and buttery texture all their own. They do take a bit of work — fava beans have to be shelled, and unless they’re extremely small, the individual beans will have an outer skin that needs to be removed as well — but they’re deliciously worth it.
In Season: Peak season for fava beans is late March through early May.
What to Look For: Seek out sturdy green pods with a velvety fuzz. Avoid any with slimy brown spots or overly large beans.
How to Store: Refrigerate for up to one week.
Related: 14 New, Lighter Comfort Food Ideas
Fava Bean Salad with Roasted-Garlic Vinaigrette
Fava beans unite with fresh corn kernels, cucumber, red onion, and feta in a garlicky walnut dressing for a party-worthy side dish.
For the Vinaigrette
1 head garlic, 1/2 inch cut off top to reveal cloves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
3/4 cup (2 ounces) walnuts, toasted and chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the Salad
1 pound shucked fresh fava beans (from 3 pounds pods; 3 1/2 cups)
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn)
1 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1. Make the vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle garlic with 1 teaspoon oil. Wrap in parchment, then in foil. Bake until soft, about 30 minutes. Squeeze garlic from skins. Mash until smooth.
2. Whisk together the remaining ingredients with 1 tablespoon of the roasted garlic and remaining 2 teaspoons oil.
3. Make the salad: Prepare an ice-water bath. Cook beans in a large pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to ice-water bath. Let cool completely, and remove with the slotted spoon. Cook corn in same pot for 1 minute, and drain in a colander. Peel thin shells off beans.
4. Toss cucumber, onion, parsley, feta, beans, and corn with the vinaigrette.
Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Dip with Radishes
Fava beans and radishes, two colorful harbingers of spring, combine in this brightly flavored appetizer.
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds fava beans, shelled
1/2 cup soft goat cheese (4 ounces)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed
1 bunch radishes, halved if large
1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook fava beans until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, and transfer to ice-water bath. Let cool. Drain, and peel beans.
2. Pulse beans, goat cheese, oil, tarragon, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until just combined but still chunky, about 6 or 7 times. Stir in water. Add an additional tablespoon water if mixture is too thick. Transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. Sprinkle with pepper just before serving. Serve with radishes.
Fava Bean, Mint, and Pecorino Romano Bruschetta
A hint of spice from crushed red pepper adds a lively edge to mild, creamy fava beans in this mix.
Cooked fava beans
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
Chopped mint leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Crushed red-pepper flakes
Pecorino Romano cheese
1. Toss cooked fava beans with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a few chopped mint leaves. Season with coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes. Spoon onto toasts. Top with thin shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese.
Grilled Fava Beans
Never grilled beans before? Your guests will be delighted by this deliciously charred, shell-it-yourself appetizer.
Chopped mint or cilantro
Salt and pepper
Fava bean pods
Lemon juice and wedges
1. Stir together mint or cilantro, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill fava bean pods directly on grates over high heat, turning, until charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly. Sprinkle with mint or cilantro, lemon juice, and salt. Serve with herb sauce and lemon wedges.
Ravioli Stuffed with Fava Beans, Ricotta, and Mint with Brown-Butter Sauce
Pockets of fresh pasta hold a creamy bounty of fresh ricotta, nutty fava beans, and a hint of mint.
3 cups shelled fresh fava beans (3 pounds in pods)
10 ounces ricotta cheese (preferably buffalo ricotta), drained in a sieve
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Yellow cornmeal, for dusting
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add beans. Cook until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to an ice-water bath; let cool 1 minute. Drain; squeeze beans from skins. Transfer 2 cups of the beans to a food processor. Add cheeses, mint, lemon juice, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth. Refrigerate filling at least 1 hour (up to 2 days).
2. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Dust 1 piece of dough with flour (cover remaining pieces with plastic wrap). Set the rollers of a pasta maker to the widest setting; roll dough through. Fold dough into thirds; pass through again, narrow side first. Repeat until smooth, 3 or 4 more times. Run dough through progressively narrower settings, using additional flour as needed, until very thin (at least 5 inches wide). Cut sheet crosswise into manageable pieces.
3. Dust 2 rimmed baking sheets with cornmeal; set aside. Place 1 piece of pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface (keep unused pieces covered). Space heaping tablespoons of filling 3 inches apart on lower half of sheet.
4. Using a wet pastry brush, moisten pasta around each mound of filling. Fold top half of sheet over filling to meet edge; press around mounds to eliminate air and to seal.
5. Cut pasta into 2 1/2- to 3-inch squares using a pizza wheel. Brush away excess flour. Place ravioli on cornmeal-dusted baking sheets. Roll out remaining pasta dough, and repeat. (If serving that day, cover ravioli with plastic wrap, and refrigerate on baking sheets until ready to use. If making ahead, freeze on baking sheets until firm, about 1 hour, and then transfer to an airtight container; freeze until ready to use, up to 1 month.)
6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Add half the ravioli; gently stir once. Cook at a gentle boil until ravioli are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander using a slotted spoon; drain. Cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ravioli.
7. Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cook butter until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add half the ravioli to skillet; toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a platter; cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ravioli.
8. Cook remaining 4 tablespoons butter until lightly browned as above. Add reserved cup beans; cook over low heat until warm, about 20 seconds. Transfer ravioli to serving plates. Spoon beans and butter over ravioli. Sprinkle with cheese; season with salt and pepper.
Stewed Baby Artichokes with Fava Beans
After they simmer with shallots, garlic, black pepper, red-pepper flakes, fresh thyme, and parsley, baby artichokes are paired with tender, blanched fava beans.
1 1/2 pounds fava beans, shelled
4 cups water
3 tablespoons lemon juice plus a lemon half for rubbing cut artichokes
2 1/4 pounds (about 24) baby artichokes
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Fill a large bowl with ice and water; set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add fava beans; blanch 30 seconds. Remove from water; place in ice bath until cool. Peel outer skin from beans; set aside.
2. Place 4 cups water in a large bowl; add lemon juice; set aside. Remove tough outer leaves from artichokes; cut 1 inch from tip of each artichoke. Trim and peel stem of each; rub all over with lemon half. Place in reserved lemon water.
3. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until shallot is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add artichokes, 1 cup lemon water, thyme, and parsley; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, and cover; simmer until artichokes are tender, about 14 minutes.
4. Add fava beans. Cook until beans are tender, about 3 minutes more. Serve hot.
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