Springtime in Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio mean many things gastronomically-speaking (baby lamb, freshly cured salami, artichokes, just to start), but for me the greatest joy of being in central Italy from March through May is the fresh fava beans in season.
In Tuscany, spring is celebrated with raw fava beans freshly picked and paired with young fresh pecorino.
That might be as simple as putting a bunch of fava pods down on the table and a wheel of cheese and a knife, to be eaten either as an aperitif with wine or as a digestif (still with wine) at the end of the meal.
It’s also served in a fancier format as a salad, with lots of fresh spring herb leaves, sharp Tuscan olive oil, and cracked black pepper. I like to add fresh raw peas and, if it's around, shaved raw asparagus to this classic salad.
But however you serve or eat it, what makes it delicious is the combination of fresh young spring green things (peas or asparagus or green chickpeas or shaved raw artichokes) with cheese that can be mild and soft or sharp and crumbly—all those combinations will work.
The hardest thing about this recipe is sourcing the vegetables: They really do need to be sparkling fresh, just-picked, farmers market-sourced to be truly magical.
If you don’t have access to super-fresh local farm produce, I would probably blanch and shuck the fava beans, blanch the peas or substitute snap peas, and blanch the asparagus and cut it into small 2-inch lengths. The herbs can be as simple as basil and mint or parsley or as ornate as chervil, chives, tarragon, sorrel, and lovage—all are early spring herbs that should be in season with asparagus, favas, and peas.
Tossed together into a spring salad, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with freshly cracked black pepper, it’s a delicious, bright green ode to spring.
- 3 pounds fresh fava beans (removed from pods)
- 1/2 cup cup fresh shucked peas or 1 pound snap peas, blanched
- 5 stalks fat fresh asparagus
- 2 1/2 cups fresh herb mix using at least 3 of the following: mint, parsley, sorrel, pea shoots, tarragon, chives, lovage
- 6 ounces pecorino cheese (my preference is for a medium-aged Tuscan pecorino)
- 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or other fine finishing salt
- Black pepper
- 1/4 cup cup finest estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil
What's your culinary ode to springtime? Share with us in the comments below!