Fava beans are a lot like life: it takes a lot of work to get to the really good parts.
First there’s a pod to deal with. Peel back the zipper-string that keeps the pod sealed tight, open up the green shell, and inside you’ll find the precious fava beans nestled inside. But the work doesn’t stop there. There’s still a heavy, protective skin to remove before you get to the precious kidney-shaped nuggets of delicious emerald green. What a luxury fava beans are; I marvel at their simple elegance every time.
Lately, I can’t help but admire the wonderful little things about my job at Mozza.
It took countless years of shedding through inconsequential restaurant positions to find a job studded with rewards. I pitched the notion of the power of a flashy title and began to celebrate the good, humble work of service. I zipped past months catering, peeled back the years of meaningless beer-tap pulling, and stored away my management jobs, to uncover the simple joy of waiting tables and making drinks at Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza.
Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich’s world-class restaurant is a place where there is no such thing as a meaningless job.
From the prep cook shelling fava beans, the dishwasher cleaning off plates, the receptionist taking calls, the pasta cook dropping fresh pasta into the boiling water, the waiter explaining the menu, to the chef in pristine whites calling out orders —we all make a difference to the experience of everyone that steps into the restaurant.
Thanks to the quiet virtuoso of Nancy Silverton working her station at the mozzarella bar, I now see art in all the little things. I see the spark of life in rising dough, the glory of a roasted cherry tomato, and the magnificence of a fava bean. In watching Nancy’s mastery of ingredients, I’ve learned that the key to living a really great life is to keep it simple and honest, and surround myself with great people.
Spaghetti with Fava Bean PureeIf it weren’t for Nancy Silverton, I probably wouldn’t appreciate the task of prepping fava beans. Though the shelling and slipping off the skins of the favas is a labor of love, it’s worth it, even for a dish this simple and straight forward. Inspired by a recipe in La Cucina Italiana.INGREDIENTS
2 cups fresh fava beans (about 2-3 pounds in the pod, unshelled)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound high quality spaghetti (or chiatara, spaghettini)
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup aged Pecorino, plus more for garnishing
Freshly ground black pepper and Maldon sea salt
1. Bring 5-to 6-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook for two minutes, or until the skin becomes soft enough to slide off. Using a slotted spoon, remove favas from water and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Remove and discard the favas protective skin and save the bright green center for cooking.
2. To a small sauté pan, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to become soft. Add the favas and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and mostly puree. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer puree to the small sauté pan and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook until al dente. When the pasta is done, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until warm and add the pasta. Toss lightly to coat, for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Toss to combine.
4. Add a ladle’s worth of pasta water to the warming fava bean puree and stir to loosen up the beans before serving. Toss fava puree with pasta, grate a little finish of Pecorino over the top, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.
Note: Beautiful separated, these two simple ingredients come alive when blended together. I enjoyed adding pasta water to my second helping (!) and tossing all of the ingredients together in the pan to give this dish an entirely new texture!