Hearts of Butter Lettuce with Fava Beans and Pecorino Pepato

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Sheep’s-milk cheese and fresh, unpeeled fava beans are a common appetizer in Southern Italy. You peel the favas by hand and alternate tastes of sweet bean with salty cheese. For this salad, which brings the same ingredients together, look for a sheep’s cheese studded with cracked black peppercorns-usually labeled pecorino pepato (peppered). Alternatively, use Spanish Manchego, Italian pecorino toscano, or another shaveable but pepperless sheep’s-milk cheese, and season the salad with cracked black pepper.




Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, kosher, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealbrunch, dinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecheesy, herby, hot & spicy, light, salty, savory, sharp, tangy

Type of Dishfirst course salad


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fava beans, shelled
  • 2 heads butter lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Pepato or Manchego cheese


  1. To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and shallot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow the shallot flavor to mellow. Taste and adjust the balance as needed.

  2. Blanch the fava beans in a large pot of boiling water until tender (remove one, peel, and taste to be sure), 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again. Remove outer skin, which should slip off easily.

  3. Remove the outer green leaves from each head of butter lettuce until you reach the pale green heart. (Save the outer leaves for sandwiches or other uses.) Wash the hearts, tear the leaves into smaller pieces, and dry thoroughly.

  4. In a medium bowl, toss the butter lettuce and 1 tablespoon of the parsley with all but 2 teaspoons of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide leaves among 4 salad plates or arrange on a large platter. With a cheese plane, shave the pecorino into thin shards. Break up the shards by hand if large and scatter over the lettuce. Toss the fava beans with the remaining 2 teaspoons of dressing; season with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the fava beans over the salad, then garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley. Serve immediately.

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