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Spaghetti with Fava Beans, Mint, and Ricotta Salsa

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

A sprig or two of fresh mint in the pot gives braised fava beans a bright, herbal flavor. After tossing the sauce with pasta, I grate in a generous amount of ricotta salata, a young, chalk-white sheep’s milk cheese, to provide a faintly salty complement for the sweet favas. For this dish, it’s worth it to spend a little extra on a high-end pasta brand, such as Rustichella, Martelli, or Latini. The rough texture of these brands is a pleasing contrast to the silky fava beans, and it gives the beans something to cling to.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodsauteeing

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Mealbrunch, dinner

Taste and Texturecheesy, herby, light, salty

Type of Dishdry pasta, pasta

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds fresh fava beans
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Pinch of hot pepper flakes
  • Two 4-inch sprigs fresh mint
  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3 to 4 ounces ricotta salata cheese

Instructions

  1. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Shell the fava beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shelled beans and blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on their size, then drain and transfer them to the ice water. When cool, drain again. Peel the beans; the skins should slip off easily. You should have 1½ to 2 cups.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the onion, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and mint sprigs and cook until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the fava beans, a generous pinch of salt, and enough water to cover the beans completely (1½ to 2 cups). Bring to a simmer, cover partially, and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 15 minutes. The liquid should be nicely flavored and somewhat reduced but still brothy. Add a little water as the beans cook as needed. Remove the garlic and the mint sprigs.

  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until about 1 minute shy of al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot over moderately low heat. Add the sauce and cook for about 1 minute to allow the pasta to absorb some of the flavor of the sauce. Moisten with some of the reserved pasta water as needed.

  4. Grate the cheese into the pasta and toss again, then divide the pasta among warm bowls and serve immediately.

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