Fava Beans With Fennel and Pancetta

by brittany on August 3, 2012

I dread our yearly delivery of fava beans from our CSA.  That’s the honest truth.  I was excited the first time we received the passel of beans because I’d read about them but never tried them.  The excitement lasted through the first peeling–removing the beans from their pods–but somehow lost its luster as I laboriously peeled each individual bean.

The first thing I made with my hard-won beans was this Fava Beans With Fennel and Pancetta, and I’ve repeated the recipe every subsequent year because it is so unbelievably up my alley.  The whole dish is a little bit of a pain, even after the tedious bean-peeling, but I can do it once a year because it is so delicious.  In fact, I’ve only ever made one other fava bean recipe because this one is so good.  I’m not even sure fava beans are that delicious, because I’m fairly certain any vegetable would be wonderful with this preparation.

The moral of this explanation is that I don’t condone buying a bunch of fava beans to make this recipe unless you’re into self-flagellation.  But!  If you, like I, receive a large portion of the suckers with your CSA share, I absolutely insist you use them to make this recipe.  Unless you’re vegetarian.  Because, you know, the whole not-eating-meat thing gets in the way of the pancetta.

P.S.  Sorry there aren’t more photos.  By the time I’d finished the whole process, I wanted to eat it right away.  You will too.

P.P.S.  My parents have a dog named Pancetta.  They call him Chet.

Fava Beans With Fennel and Pancetta  (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield:  3 or 4 greedy servings, or maybe 6 side servings


3 pounds fresh fava beans

2 Tablespoons baking soda

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 fennel bulb, quartered and sliced

1-1/3 cups vegetable broth, about

4 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1/2 cup chopped pancetta (note:  I’ve used prosciutto in a pinch)

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper


Remove all of the fava beans from their shells.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the baking soda and shelled beans to the water.  Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with water and ice cubes.  In about 2 minutes, some of the beans’ skins will start coming off and floating to the top.  When 1/3 to 1/2 of the beans start losing their skins, drain the beans in a colander and rinse them with cool water, then pour them into the prepared ice water.  Peel all the beans that haven’t lost their skins by squeezing them from one end, and separate all the beans from their skins (which you can discard).

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is somewhat translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the peeled beans and cook, stirring occasionally, another 2 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the broth and half of the dill and bring the mixture to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the pancetta and extra broth, if necessary, and simmer another 10-15 minutes, until the beans are tender.  Stir in the lemon juice, the rest of the dill, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or room-temperature.

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