Market Matters: Spaghetti with Fava Bean Puree and Ragusano Cheese

This is so me I don’t even need a recipe to do it, but I included one from inspiration. I mean this is what I do most Sundays. I go to the Hollywood Farmers Market and I buy something fresh and seasonal. Something green seems to be my favorite, but not always.

Then I bring that something green home and I percolate on it. Then I choose a few simple elements. Things I think would augment my newly acquired something green. Then I mush it all together and serve it with pasta. Usually within 2 hours of getting it from the market to my kitchen. Of course by mush it all together, I mean puree (using very expensive equipment!). But basically the technique is best described at mushed.

Every time I do this I think, “No not again”. People will get bored with these “pestos”, no matter how atypical. But then I remind myself that I never get bored of them. So maybe you folks won’t get bored of them either.

So here I go again. Mush. Today it’s fava bean mush. Paired with almost nothing else: Fava beans, onions, celery, and parsley. Not even any butter today. That’s how light a hand I think fava beans require. Every element must be green. The favas and their delicate nature must prevail.

Favas Beans in PodBut just because this fava bean puree is so simple it doesn’t mean there’s not just a pinch of room for something creative. Because this simple pasta dish is a great time to experiment with cheese.

Which is not to say you couldn’t make this recipe using good old Parmigiano-Reggiano. You could and it would be great. If that’s what you have then use it.

But if you went one step further you might consider using Pecorino Romano. It’s the classic cheese of Rome and the perfect partner to favas. But I knew you knew that.

Then there’s Caciocavallo. It’s not that hard to find. Try Whole Foods. It’s a Sicilian gourd shaped cheese made from raw cows’ milk curds. It comes in several styles, the aged variety would be a great choice for this fava bean pesto.

But at my house, fava beans are special, because they are a lot of work. So why not put a bit more effort into the cheese as well? Do you know Ragusano? Ragusano is an unpasteurized cow’s raw milk cheese hailing from Sicily. It is rarely mentioned alongside the great cheeses of Southern Italy. In fact, it is not well known outside the island at the tip of Italy’s boot. It bears some resemblance to Parmigiano with its nutty character and crumbly texture. But the aroma sets it apart: Herbaceous, piquant, intense…

You’ll have to put some effort into finding it I admit. But make a few calls see what you can come up with.

fava bean puree pastaSpaghetti with Fava Bean Puree & Ragusano Cheese serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe. Adapted from La Cucina Italiana

  • kosher salt, as needed
  • 4 c fava beans, shelled
  • 5 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1⁄2 c onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped, plus 2 t celery leaves
  • 1 c vegetable broth, approximately
  • freshly cracked black pepper, as needed
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 T flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1⁄2 lb ragusano cheese, grated


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shelled fava beans and blanch for one minute. Transfer with slotted spoon to a prepared ice bath to stop cooking. Reserve the salted water for the pasta.

Drain beans, gently peel and discard outer skins. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add two tablespoons olive oil, the onion. chopped celery and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about five minutes. Add three-quarters cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and add half of the peeled fava beans and about two tablespoons minced celery leaves. Cook one minute, remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender, Pulsing until a rough puree is achieved. Transfer the puree to a small saucepan, stir in remaining vegetable broth a litlle at a time to achieve a nice consistency. Add the reserved fava beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Return the reserved pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat until just warm. Stir in the minced parsley.

Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with oil and parsley; heat over medium high heat tossing to coat, about two minutes. Remove from heat, add half of the cheese and toss to combine.

Divide the fava bean puree among serving plates. Top with pasta and remaining cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.


Greg Henry

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