Spring Vegetable Pasta

Happy Spring! Time for open windows, baseball on the television (Go Giants!), flowers blooming and brighter evenings.

This recipe came about because I couldn’t think of anything to make. I was driving to my hair appointment today, drowning myself in a vicious cycle of what-if-people-dont-like-my-posts, when it hit me, I need to like what I post if anyone else is going to like it. And I need to stop being so hard on myself. We women as a whole tend to over-analyze and torture ourselves, I think we all need to knock it off.

If you know me and read this, you’ll know I’m slightly A-type (I am an ICU nurse after all so it’s not my fault.) I strive for the illusion of “perfect”. My husband said something brilliant the other day while I was trying to pan fry some white fish and, as the white fish was dissolving in to half-cooked blobs and I was ready to throw myself on the ground/throw the fish against the wall, he said something along the lines of “You have to screw up to get to the good stuff.” And then I realized there is no “perfect”, you really do have to screw up to get to the good stuff. Pasta, pancetta, fava beans, asparagus

So in the name of spring when things start over again, I’m going to be a little less hard on myself. Ok, so maybe that will start tomorrow since I’ve spent the better part of the evening agonizing over this blog post, but I’m trying! How can you be hard on yourself while you’re writing about trying not to be hard on yourself? My brain hurts.

Spring means asparagus, and I honestly have no idea why I chose to cook fava beans. Probably because I’ve never cooked them before and thought I’d give it a whirl. The best part of this recipe was that it cost $20, and would have fed 4 if Miguel hadn’t exercised literally 4 times in one day and could eat the contents of our refrigerator (that’s for another post). Prep to table this took 45 minutes, so I think this qualifies as “weeknight” material.

  • 1 lb. fava beans*
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus (Snap the hard-to-chew end off and slice on the diagonal in to 1/2” pieces)
  • 1 spring onion, white and light green parts only, sliced and finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb with fronds (Set fronds aside and cut the bulb in half and finely slice.)
  • 10 oz. pappardelle pasta (I used Community Grains whole wheat pasta again because I am obsessed with it.)
  • Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 oz. pancetta (If you’re getting your pancetta from the deli counter, make sure to ask them to slice it paper thin.)

* A note about fava beans: You will find fava beans in their pods, they look like overgrown sweet peas. They are sweeter with a smoother texture than most other beans. I found the easiest way to remove the beans from the pod was to snap one end off with my fingers, then peel the pod back in a circular motion, picking the beans out as you go. But really, there is no right way to do it. One pound of fava bean pods yielded slightly less than 1 cup of beans.

Preheat the oven to 400˚. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out your pancetta slices in one layer. Bake until the edges are golden and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. (Note: I use a convection oven, so in a non-convention oven, this might take a few minutes longer.) Chop the crisped pancetta into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to your serving bowl.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the olive oil. When the butter and olive oil are warm, add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to have the pan too warm or your garlic will burn–fast. Add your spring onion and allow to cook until soft and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the chopped fennel to the pan, along with the fresh thyme and lemon zest and juice. Sauté until the fennel has softened, about 10 minutes. Add the fennel mixture to the bowl with the pancetta.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a medium saucepan. When you reach a rolling boil, add the fava beans and asparagus pieces. Blanch for 3 minutes, or until crisp tender, but be careful not to overcook. Drain in to a strainer and rinse with cool water. Add to the bowl with your fennel mixture and pancetta.

Refill your saucepan, add about 1 tsp of kosher salt and about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook your pasta according to package directions. When there is about 1 minute left on your timer, use a ladle to remove about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add to your serving bowl. When the pasta is done, drain, and add to your vegetable and pancetta mixture. Toss well and serve.

Happy Spring!

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