Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pasta with Fava Beans, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan

Pasta with Proscuitto, Fava Beans, and Shaved Parmesan
Last Saturday Steven and I went to the U District Farmers Market with a mission: to find fava beans. I was hoping I would still be able to find some since it's usually a springtime crop. The Udist market is always extremely crowded but it's worth it just seeing the dozens of stalls selling farm fresh produce, organic eggs, artisanal breads, pastas, honeys, and so much more. After being distracted by all the overwhelming and sometimes unusual offerings (sea beans anyone?), I finally found the only stand that still sold fava beans. Whoo! Success! Since I was going through all trouble of shelling fava beans, I figured I might as well go all out and make some fresh pasta to accompany this special treat.

While the pasta dough was resting on the counter, I enlisted Steven's help and we began shelling the beans. Fava beans are a pain in the butt. First the beans needed to be zipped out of the fuzzy outer pod, which was easy enough. Then they are blanched in boiling water for a minute, dunked in ice water and finally, the bean must be peeled (thank goodness for fingernails) and squeezed out of the waxy outer layer. In the end we only got about a half cup of beans but they were really delicious - buttery, nutty, and sweet. I quickly sauteed them with just a tiny bit of garlic and tossed them with fresh pasta, olive oil, thin pieces of prosciutto and Parmesan shaving. It was labor intensive but it was quite the treat. Light and fresh, it was the perfect summer pasta dish.

For this dish, I would really recommend making or purchasing fresh pasta if possible but dried pasta will work in a pinch. I prefer wider noodles for this dish, like pappardelle, but the narrower tagliatelle and fettuccine are also good substitutes.

Pasta with Fava Beans, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan

8 ounces wide pasta noodles (pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine), preferably fresh
1 pound fava beans (also called broad beans, English beans, or Windsor beans)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 - 3 ounces prosciutto, cut into bite size pieces
2 ounces Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, shaved and 1 ounce grated (about 1/4 C)
Extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Shelling Favas:
First shell the beans from the fuzzy outer pod by opening it with your fingers. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Meanwhile prepare a bowl of ice cold water. Add the shelled beans and boil for a minute. Drain and plunge into ice water. When the beans are cold, drain them. Peel and slip the beans out of the waxy coating. Use your fingers to make an incision in the coating if needed. Place the shelled beans in a bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta. If using fresh pasta, it will cook in 1 to 2 minutes, whereas dried pasta will take 9 - 11. Time your prep and cooking accordingly depending on which kind you use.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the fava beans and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute and set aside.

After the pasta has finished cooking, toss the pasta with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the garlic sauteed fava beans, grated Parmesan, thin slices of prosciutto, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the Parmesan shavings on top and serve.

Serves 2

To make fresh pasta, I follow Marcella Hazan's recipe:

Fresh Pasta
1 C flour
2 large eggs

First make a mountain of flour on your work surface, then create a crater in the center. Add your eggs in the crater. Use a fork and beat the eggs in the crater incorporating a little bit of the flour at a time. Once the egg mixture begins to look like a batter, you can start incorporating more of the flour into the dough. After incorporating all the flour, you will end up with a dough. If the dough is still sticky, add some more flour. Knead by pushing with the heel of your palm, fold the dough in half, give it a half turn, and repeat the process for 8 minutes or until it feels smooth. Marcella did not specify to let the dough rest but I let the dough rest (covered) for 20ish minutes.

Cut the dough into 3 equal portions. Take one portion of the dough and press it flat, then run it through the pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds and run the narrow end into the machine again. Repeat twice more. Do this to the remaining 2 portions of dough. Now you should have 3 portions of dough that have been passed through the widest setting 3 times each. Go up one setting, and run each portion of dough through twice, but do not fold in thirds this time, just run it straight through twice. Repeat with the two other pieces of dough. Go up one setting, and repeat again. My machine has 7 settings and I stopped on setting #3 for fettuccine because I want my noodles a little on the thicker side. After running the pasta through the #3 setting twice more, run it through the fettuccine cutter (the wider cutter). Separate any noodles that did not get cut all the way through. Lightly toss the noodles in some flour.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt the water, then add the pasta. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta reserving some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.

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