Pasta with Dried Fava Beans and Swiss Chard: Pasta cu li Favi Sicchi é Giri


Fava beans have been a food staple throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East since ancient times.  Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are very nutritious.  Fresh and dried fava beans are a fundamental food in Sicilian cuisine.  In Sicily, Maccu – an ancient dish made of mashed or pureed dried fava beans and fennel – is still served today.  The word maccu is a derivation of the Latin verb maccare, which means to mash.  This dish is really just an updated version of Maccu.

Fresh or dried fava beans are often used in salads, stews, pasta dishes, and as antipasti.  Dry roasted and salted favas are a popular snack food sold by street vendors in Sicily.  The dried beans, when cooked, have and earthy flavor, somewhat similar to dried yellow split peas, only sweeter in taste.

This pasta dish is my idea of Sicilian comfort food.  I love to make in the fall and winter months.  It can also be prepared without pasta and served as a soup with crusty bread.

Pasta cu li Favi Sicchi é Giri (Pasta con Fave Secchi é Bietole)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 pound dried, skinless, fava beans
1 plum tomato, chopped
6 cups water
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed, stems discarded and leaves roughly chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pipette, ditali, or shell pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

1. MAKE THE FAVA BEANS:  Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in medium covered stock pot.  Add the onion and saute over medium-low heat until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add water, 1 teaspoon salt and the fava beans.  Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and let sit 1 hour.  Bring to a boil again over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-high and cook for minutes 25 to 30 minutes, or until beans are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. MAKE THE SWISS CHARD:  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large covered skillet.  Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the swiss chard, cover and saute 5 minutes, until tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. MAKE THE PASTA:  Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add pasta and cook to al dente.  Drain in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.  Stir pasta into the fava beans.  Add some of the reserved pasta water to thin if necessary.  Ladle the pasta into individual serving bowls, top with a small mound of swiss chard, drizzle with olive oil and serve with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

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