Fava beans– you were once my enemy, but no more. I HAVE CONQUERED THE FAVA BEAN! And having conquered them– I love them!
Okay, so the conquest wasn’t really that dramatic. It was really a matter of having learned my lesson from last year’s debacle that favas are the beans you shell twice, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I love them! Now that I know how to properly prep them, I want more to play with. I want to put them in everything.
But let’s start with ravioli. The inspiration for these was a ravioli I’d seen on the menu of a local vegetarian bistro– saw, but didn’t order mind you due to 1) there were too many other delicious sounding things that I wanted to order and 2) admittedly, this restaurant is sometimes hit or miss with their pastas. I blanched the individual beans found in the pods then carefully peeled away the tough skin. Since I’d skipped that crucial step and was dealing with rather old, mealy beans last year, I was surprised to see how vibrantly green the beans actually are. I took a taste of one to get a sense of what the beans taste like at their purest form. The taste was faintly sweet, kind of like a super starchy pea. If that doesn’t sound very appetizing to you, let me tell you that to me, it tasted like an early summer day– bright, a little grassy, the starch a kind of soft comfort, like a gentle breeze on a warm day.
I pureed the beans with some marscarpone, a clove of garlic, and a little bit of lemon zest to make a flavorful filling for the ravioli. The filling was faintly sweet and oh so pretty, almost sea-foam green. I chilled the mixture in the fridge while I prepared the pasta. I love the smells, sounds, and feel of making fresh pasta: The faintly sticky and pliable dough as I knead it, the almost bread like aroma of the egg and flour, the steady whir of the mixer attachment as the dough rolls out. Making the ravioli was a lengthy process but fun, kind of a more productive Play-Doh play session (unless you ate your Play-Doh, which in that case… ewww) what with the painting of egg wash, scooping little mounds of colorful filling, folding dough, and cutting with a biscuit cutter.
As for the sauce, I wanted something light that would complement the flavors of the fava bean without covering it up. I had some fresh cilantro and basil from the CSA so I thought a mixed herb pesto would be good, and since the fava beans tasted like fresh peas, I thought some mint would pair nicely. I made the pesto with the herbs, some toasted hazelnuts, and a little bit of the pasta cooking water to add creaminess to the pesto. These ravioli were so light– the pasta dough had a good bite to it while the filling was supple in texture but bright and citrusy in flavor. Some toasted hazelnuts on top added a toasty crunch to the dish. I won’t lie– total time of making the ravioli was at least an hour and a half to two hours, but the process was super fun. A chance to play with your food. In fact, you end up with such an elegant plate, no one would guess how fun it was to make.
Note: For a sturdier filling, try swapping out the marscarpone for a whole milk ricotta. Don’t want to make the pasta dough yourself? Try buying sheets of ready-made pasta dough which you can buy online or in some Italian specialty stores. If you don’t have a pasta roller, you could either make the dough then roll it as thin as you can using a rolling pin. This yielded 18 ravioli, enough for a main course to feed up to 3 people or a first course for 4.
- 1 lb fava beans, yielding 1 cup of shelled beans
- 8 oz marscarpone cheese
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- salt and pepper
- 12 oz flour (about 2 cups)
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash
- 1/2 small bunch of cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup toasted hazelnuts
- 1 medium clove garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup-1/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water
- salt and pepper
Crack open the fava pods, then add the individual beans to a small pot of water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 2-3 minutes. Drain the beans and cool with cold water until cool to the touch. Peel away the outer grey skins from the beans, discarding the skins and reserving the bright green beans.
Add the shelled beans with the marscarpone, garlic clove, and lemon zest to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Puree until blended and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove filling to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set in the fridge while you make the pasta sheets.
Add the flour and eggs to the bowl of a standing mixer. Turn mixer setting to the lowest setting and mix until just combined. Lightly flour your counter or large cutting board, then turn mixer contents out onto the floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes or until dough is pliable, adding more flour if necessary if dough is too sticky. Form the dough into a ball and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes out on your counter.
Cut the dough into 6 even portions. Roll out dough according to your roller’s directions, steadily decreasing the roller width setting with each roll– I rolled mine out to the number 6 setting on my roller. Make ravioli one sheet at a time, covering the other sheets with the kitchen towel when not in use. Lightly flour both sides of the pasta sheet. Trim any ragged or oddly shaped ends of the pasta sheet so that the sheet has straight edges. Carefully pull one end of the sheet to meet the other one then mark the halfway line at the fold by gently drawing a line with your knife, careful not to cut it. Using a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter, mark, without cutting, the borders of each ravioli, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart from one another up to the line that you’ve drawn in the flour with your knife. (You should get 3-4 ravioli out of each sheet.) Scoop rounded teaspoon sized mounds of the filling, placing the filling in the center of each circle. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash mixture along the borders of the pasta sheet and in between each ravioli circle. Fold the other side of the pasta sheet so that it covers the half that has filling on it and use your fingers to press the dough together on the borders and in between each ravioli. Use the biscuit cutter to cut around each filling. Lightly flour your ravioli, then set them aside on a baking sheet. Discard any unused dough and repeat the process with each remaining pasta sheet.
Set the baking sheet full of floured ravioli in your refrigerator while you bring a large pot of water to boil. While waiting for water to boil, add the cilantro, basil, mint, 1/2 cup of hazelnuts, garlic, honey, and lemon zest to the food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade. (Btw– no need to clean it after making the filling.) Salt the water generously then boil ravioli for 2-3 minutes or until they float. Using a ladle, scoop out 1/2 a cup of the pasta water then drain the pasta. Quickly make the pesto by slowly feeding the olive oil and then the reserved pasta cooking water through the feed tube while processing the ingredients in the bowl until the mixture looks creamy. Plate ravioli and spoon pesto on top of ravioli topping with a handful of the remaining chopped hazelnuts before serving.
CSA Count: 3
Fava beans, basil, cilantro
Garden Count: 1