Fava Beans: recipes and curiosities of the most loved legume in Italy

Fava Beans: recipes and curiosities of the most loved legume in Italy

Broad beans are the most loved fruit of the summer, and of the months of April and May where you cannot help but feel the desire for "Broad Beans and Pecorino" in the air, a little for all of Italy. Where does the love we feel for broad beans come from, and all the recipes that have them as protagonists?
Broad beans are legumes originating from China, cultivated and widespread also in Italy, particularly in the Mediterranean area since ancient times.

The custom of eating broad beans is so present in Italy that it has become the traditional food on many religious and secular holidays such as Easter Monday, April 25, and May 1, where they are the protagonists of out-of-town outings together. with pecorino cheese.
They are a very versatile food, and in almost all of Italy they are the protagonists of traditional dishes. It is in the south, however, that this legume expresses itself at its best.
Broad beans have a great deal of beneficial properties.

They have an excellent supply of fiber, protein and, above all, mineral salts such as phosphorus, iron and potassium, which are essential for the health of the digestive system.
They are also low in fat and rich in fiber, an ideal legume to be included in a low-calorie diet but with just as many properties that make it important in habitual use. Until the postwar period, in the Mediterranean area, in the areas where cultivation was most intense, especially in very poor families, it was the daily staple food like polenta in other territories. Depending on the places of the southern territories: Puglia, Sicily etc., this typical dish takes on a different name, also based on the condiments that accompany it, and vary with the seasons.
Fresh tomato sauce in summer ("friggitelli", "cornaletti", "diavolicchi" etc.), broad beans
white beans and "zucchini alla poverella", flavored with "fennel", white beans with grapes or with olives, white beans and chicory, "ncapriata", a term that comes from the Latin, ("caporidia") and is used when broad beans and seasonings are mixed together.
The preparation of these dishes that I am about to tell you is lost in time, the origin is certainly linked to the influence between cultures of the Mediterranean countries. It is from this strong connection between Greece, Puglia and southern Italy that many recipes that praise broad beans are born. Like the traditional Fave and Chicory from Puglia, more precisely Fasano-Pezze di Greco (BR), and the many variations of it that I want to tell you below!

"Broad beans and chicory" - Puglia: Fasano-Pezze di Greco (BR)

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 400g of peeled dried broad beans
  • 1 medium potato
  • Salt to taste.
  • 4-5 tablespoons of oil

Let's start with cooking the beans!
Once peeled, soak for a few hours (4 -5) in warm water in which you first dissolved 1 teaspoon of coarse salt. Before cooking, rinse the beans and then put them in a pan covering with water and seasoning with salt.
Cook, adding the chopped potato, over high heat until it boils and then lower the heat to low. Remove all the foam that has formed on the surface, and let it cook very slowly until all the water dries and the beans "crumble".
If the water is consumed earlier, add more hot water until cooking is complete.
Cooking times vary, but certainly from one hour onwards. If you want to use the pressure cooker, the times are reduced: about 30 minutes after removing the foam and closing the pot. When cooked, add the oil and vigorously work the beans with a wooden spoon, until they are creamy. At this point they are ready to be served, even alone with a drizzle of oil, or a few pieces of bread!
The next step is cooking the chicory, which must be blanched, and once drained, seasoned with oil and salt, and served together with the freshly prepared broad beans.

'For "Ncapriata", another variant of "Broad beans and Chicory", the cooking and preparation process for both is the same, with the difference that the two ingredients must be mixed together before being served.
Instead, the next recipe sees broad beans and friggitelli protagonists of a dish that in Puglia is known as "Broad beans and cornaletti peppers with sauce"

"Broad beans and cornaletti peppers with sauce"

Ingredients for 4 people (for the broad beans see the doses and the procedure already described):

  • g. 500 of "friggitelli" or "cornaletti" peppers
  • g. 500 of cherry tomatoes or peeled
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Salt to taste.

Wash the peppers and dry them. You can, if you want to remove or leave at this point, the inner part of the seeds. In a pan, lightly heat the oil with 1 clove of garlic and add the peppers. Halfway through cooking, remove them from the heat, put them in a bowl and in the same pan with the remaining oil, add the chopped tomatoes, cooking them for a few minutes. At this point, while mixing everything, add a few spoonfuls of water, the peppers, the salt and let it cook. Serve with the white beans.

What if the beans are left over? In the spirit of "nothing is thrown away", the recipe for "heated beans" also comes from Puglia. The leftover beans were certainly not thrown away and very often they were eaten very early in the morning, instead of breakfast by the farmers, before going to work in the fields.
They were prepared in a pan, after having heated a sliced onion with a little oil, the softened broad beans were added; of water, until the mixture cooks to the point that it almost sticks to the pan. This is how the classic crust is formed, which further enhances the flavor.

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