The Elusive Fava Bean

Fava beans are a vegetable that I have always been lucky to eat.  Lucky?  Yep, lucky.  For several reasons.  First and foremost, it’s a family favorite – I’ve been eating them ever since I was a little bambino, and they are a popular favorite for most of my entire immediate and extended family, that is, for those that are fortunate enough not to be afflicted by ‘favism.’

Several of my cousins cannot eat fava beans…if they do, it literally could be their last-supper.  They can’t even be near those green furry pods or the plants, much less eat them.  They have a condition called Favism, a blood disorder resulting from a G6PD enzyme deficiency (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency, for all my fellow Med-Tekkers out there); It’s most common in the Mediterranean and often results in hemolytic anemia.  Not sure how my parents knew I didn’t have this or if they just figured, ‘let’s feed him and see what happens.’  In Italy, babies are tested at the hospital for ‘favism’ (not surprising that a very serious condition in Italy, of course, revolves around food).

As though a pea and a bean spent a magical, romantic night together, the taste of these flavorful beans is a hybrid of both and found fresh, frozen, dried, and canned.  Of course, fresh is always best.  When I shared my recipe with my Mom, her first reaction was, “Eh, you add too much stuff.  You don’t put tomato in fava.”  I disagree (respectfully, of course) with my Mamma…I find the acidic tomato enhances the bold fava bean.  Inspired by her and my aunts, here’s my take on ‘house favorite fava beans.’IMG_1604Fave di Casa (house favorite fava beans)

ingredienti (ingredients)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, halved then cut into thin slices

2 tbsp. sherry (not cooking sherry)

1 plum tomato, chopped into cubes

1 chili pepper, minced super-fine

1 28 oz. bag of fava beans (or 1 ¼ lbs.) – fresh is always best, but when not available, go with frozen

1 tsp. fine Sicilian salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 cup waterIMG_1597procedamenti (directions)

In a large saucepot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and continue to cook over medium heat for several minutes.  Add the sherry, stir for a few minutes, and then add the tomato and chili pepper.  Add the basil, mix, and cook for a few minutes.  Add the basil, stir, and simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes.  The fava can be served as a vegetable side (“contorno” as is said in Italy) or snack, with the skins on or pop the bean out of the skin and into your mouth like edamame.  If fava aren’t your thing or unavailable, you can substitute green peas.  Again, fresh is always best.FAVA


    1. Definitely not at all! When my cousins were little, and I would visit them in Italy (they are in their late-teens now – where has the time gone?!?), I would only be able to take some of them on long walks through my aunt’s 20 acre garden…the ones with favism had to stay behind. =(


    1. I have to say, I’m so glad and fortunate not to have it. I absolutely love them – I sometimes refer to them as the ‘crab legs’ of vegetables…they are a pain to shuck to get a decent amount, but once you cook them…look out! Delizioso! Let me know what you think. I want to try adding pancetta cubes in the near future.


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