Homemade Cavatelli with Fresh Favas

    Well, we are  fully into spring, with the official start of summer just two weeks away.  The kids have finished the school year, so they’re on “lazy” time already.  The garden is planted and I have several other projects waiting in the wings to be completed.  It seems that everywhere I turn there’s something else that needs my attention……or someone’s attention.  And……since I seem to be the one so acutely aware of all of these lovely “projects”, I feel compelled to think about them constantly. when I have a little free time. 🙂  Sorry, I digress…..
     When I think of spring I also think of certain foods……….fava beans being one of them.  It’s another  thing that reminds me of my Italian gramma and her large, thriving garden.  So, when springtime comes I start thinking about favas and where I can acquire some.  (Maybe I’ll try to grow my own next year.) As usual, I’m the lone little Italian lady regularly asking my local supermarket to order all sorts of things (like favas) that, apparently, no one wants but me. 

    Admittedly, favas are a little labor-intensive to work with, but I think they’re worth the effort.  And when you’ve put a good amount of effort into something, you enjoy and appreciate it all the more.  Now, I hope I’m not scaring you away with all this talk of labor and effort.  Yes, this recipe is for homemade pasta with fresh fava beans, but you could also used a good dried pasta or canned favas.  It won’t be quite the same, but do what you have the time and desire to do.  And, speaking of  time….. you don’t have to prepare the favas and make the pasta all on the same day.  Spread it out over a couple days.  Then, when you actually want to make this dish, it will be pretty quick.    
    So, first let me show you what fava beans look like……….      
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The first thing you’ll have to do is split open the pods and remove all the beans.
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Next, drop them into a big pot of boiling water and blanch them for about 2 minutes, just until they turn a brighter green and the skin has become loose.  Lift them out with a strainer and place in a bowl of ice water to set the color.  After they’ve cooled down, drain them and peel off the skins.  (It usually works best if you make a small slit in the end of the skin with your fingernail and then just squeeze the bean out)
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My kitchen assistant, Jordan…..hard at work!

Wow…that was a lot of fava beans!!
For this recipe you’ll need about 4 pounds of fresh fava beans in the pods, which should give you about 3 cups of fully peeled favas, depending on the size of the beans.  (I actually bought somewhere between 10-12 pounds so I could freeze some!)
    O.k……now for the homemade cavatelli……….Are you ready for this??  Just 2 ingredients…..
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To make about 1 1/2 pounds of Cavatelli you’ll need 1 pound fine durum-wheat flour (about 3 1/4 cups), plus more as needed and 1 1/4 cups very cold water, plus more as needed.
Place the flour in a food processor and process for a few seconds to aerate.  Then, with it still running, pour in the water through the feed tube and process for about 30 seconds, until a dough forms and gathers on the blade.  Adjust by adding a little more flour or water as needed to get the dough to form.
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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute, until it’s smooth, soft, and stretchy.
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Press it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 1/2 hour.  (It could also be refrigerated for up to a day or frozen for a month or more.  *Defrost it in the fridge and bring it to room temp. before rolling)
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Now, onto forming the cavatelli………..
Pinch off golf ball-size pieces of dough and roll them out into long ropes, about the diameter of a pencil.  Cut them into 1/2-1″ segments, depending on how large you want them.
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Flour your hands….especially the middle two or three fingers of your dominate hand.  With the dough pieces laying horizontally in front of you, and holding your fingers tightly together, press them into the segments and roll toward you.  You want the dough to lengthen and curl around your fingertips.  It should resemble a short concave shell, or a hollowed-out canoe.  Start slowly to find the right amount of pressure, etc., but, once you get the hang of it, these actually go pretty fast.
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That’s a lot of cavatelli!  Both the kids helped, although my 15 yr. old wouldn’t dare let me get a picture……not even of just his hands!  Oh well, I’m thankful for them getting in the kitchen and helping me out. 
Sprinkle the cavatelli liberally with flour and spread them in a single layer onto  floured sheets.  Leave them alone to air-dry at room temperature, until you’re ready to cook them.
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***I remember my grandparents having tons of homemade pasta laid out on top of clean sheets and flour-sack towels on the dining room table and even on their bed so that it would dry. 
I miss my grandparents!! 🙁
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Homemade Cavatelli with Fresh Favas     (serves 6)
      (recipe from Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy)
4 pounds fresh fava beans in the pods (about 3 cups blanched and fully peeled…..see above)
2 tsp. Kosher salt (I would start with 1 tsp. and taste)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 11/2 cups)
4 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1/2 tsp. pepperoncino flakes, or to taste
1 batch (11/2 pounds), fresh Cavatelli (see above)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
6-8 ounce chunk ricotta salata
    Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil.  Pour the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the onion, garlic, and pepperoncini.  Cook until the onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes. 
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  Ladle a cup or so of the pasta water into the skillet and simmer until the onion starts to soften, about 2-3 minutes. 
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 Add the favas and season with the salt.  Add another 3 cups of the pasta water and bring to a steady simmer.  Cook, uncovered, until the favas are very tender and starting to break down and thicken the sauce.  Keep it barely simmering while you cook the pasta.
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When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, drop in the cavatelli, stir, and return quickly to a boil.  Cook until al dente….anywhere from 5-10 minutes.  Then, remove them with a strainer, drain briefly, and add to the skillet.
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Toss everything together to coat the cavatelli.  Turn off the heat, sprinkle the pecorino cheese over the top, and toss again.  Heap the cavatelli in warm bowls and shred the ricotta salata over each serving, using the large holes of a box grater.  Pass more at the table.
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For printable recipe click here.


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