Editors' Picks

Ignacio Mattos’s Grilled Favas

June 20, 2012

Every week -- often with your help -- FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Fava beans lose their prissy reputation.

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If you're shelling fava beans for more than just yourself -- cracking open each chubby pod, peeling away every bean's little green wetsuit, and leaving a massive pile of detritus in your wake -- you either love that person with unshakeable devotion, or you are a restaurant prep cook. As we know, the most infamous lover of favas preferred to dine alone. 

Of course, you can get resourceful, and double-peel just enough to scatter through a pasta course or top a crostini, and you'll appreciate each tender, denuded bean all the more. 

But still -- if this is what you think you're committing to every time you buy a pound of favas, aren't you that much more likely to let the season pass by? 


Well, stop right there. Fava beans don't deserve their high-maintenance reputation. They're much more relaxed than we give them credit for. The fact is: they were born edible, from pod to peel to bean -- we're the ones pigeon-holing them as spring's biggest divas.

Chefs like Judy Rodgers and Peter Hoffman -- both pros at making the best of what nature provides -- have come to realize that there's no reason to disregard these less desirable bits. As with liver or kale stems or unripe peaches, you just have to put more thought into making them delicious. And Ignacio Mattos, former chef of Il Buco and Isa, may have come up with the most thoughtful, delicious way of all.

Here are his secrets for taming them:

1. Grilling. Smoke and char do wonderful things to fava's thick-walled pods and skins. Whatever resistance is left melts away as they steam back in the bowl. (No grill in sight? A smoking cast iron skillet works too.)

2. Seeking out tender young things. Look for the smallest, cutest favas you can find. But even if you're stuck with the big, gnarly ones, you can eat the pods you want, and just pop out the inner beans for the ones you don't -- they'll still slide out more easily after they've been cooked.

3. Using all the best flavors at once: olive oil, salt, chile, garlic, and rosemary to start; plus lemon and anchovy to finish. Like a rough and tumble Caesar. 

4. Returning the cooked pods to the same bowl. After they're tossed in the marinade the first time, a bit fuses in as they sear on the grill. But then they're put right back in the pool of marinade to latch on to the flavors anew. 

grilled favas


5. Did I say anchovy? I meant a crazy amount of anchovy. So much that I was a little scared. But trust me: I tasted one pod before adding any anchovy and was ready to cast them aside as flat, soulless, un-genius. Then I stirred in the whole chopped up tin's worth, along with plenty of lemon, and polished off the rest of the bowl without sitting down. 

So, in this way, Mattos' fava beans were still favas for one. But now, at least they're scalable.

Ignacio Mattos’s Grilled Favas

Adapted very slightly from New York Magazine

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound fresh fava beans in their pods, the younger the better?
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 teaspoon ground chile pepper
1 teaspoon picked rosemary?
3 or 4 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to finish?
2 tablespoons water
1 whole lemon, for juice?
7 or 8 canned anchovies, in oil?
Handful of toasted bread crumbs (optional)

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Carlton
  • LeslieJ
  • daisybrain
  • Sf2oak
  • clementscooks
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Carlton September 13, 2018
We started cooking Favas (broad beans in Australia) this way last year with our first crop. I found the recipe in a friends copy of the cookbook and photocopied it- then list the recipe. I am so pleased to find this on line as this is the best ways eat these by far. The only thing I leave out is the breadcrumbs and only because it is for the two of us. We often keep the marinade and add more Favas the next day until it is used up. Then make more. Try this if you have young to medium Favas. You won’t be disappointed.
LeslieJ June 18, 2015
I have made this and it is amazing. Don't skip the anchovies!
daisybrain June 28, 2012
I used to go to a restaurant in Park Slope where they served whole favas.. They weren't grilled but I do remember that they were whole and I loved them. I had to pull the string but other than that they were tasty and fragrant with lemon. As a result I was surprised when someone told me all they went through to prepare their favas. I'm going to try this though and will expect good results. Insteead of anchovies I'll do olives and a little feta. Vegetarians don't you know.
Sf2oak June 26, 2012
Thanks for the grilling tip. Our farmer's markets started selling fava bean leaves a couple of years ago and if you want that fava taste w/ no shelling make up a batch of fava leaf pesto. No hassle & lasts in the fridge.
clementscooks June 24, 2012
breakbread June 21, 2012
A foodie friend shared this idea with me as we sat eating Hog Island Oysters by the dozen in the Embarcadero (SFO) - just two weeks ago. She likes to make this as a spring appetizer when entertaining - gives folks something to do. My garden has yielded a nice little bonanza of fava beans. And with the heat outside in CT, I think I should rescue them and put them straight on the grill!
BoulderGalinTokyo June 21, 2012
Fava Fabulous! What a great idea.
bonbonmarie June 20, 2012
AAARGH! I just (as in just last night) finished shelling, blanching and freezing my wetsuited little babies, to eat naked later. (10# without the shells! Imagine what my little lot looked like a month ago...). Next time I will definitely try the small-fava-grill method. Sounds delicious. One note, though, as self-appointed fava bean missionary, nothing can dissuade me from the labor of love to get that little gem of bean. True love! But the more ways to eat favas the better, I say! Thanks for a great idea and recipe.
Wonderland K. June 20, 2012
Gah! Of course I read this the week *after* I first discovered favas at my market, brought them home, and learned how to double-shell them all. :) Notes for the next time.
Michael H. June 20, 2012
This is a revelation. After going through the shell/blanch/shock/peel process on case after case of favas in a restaurant kitchen in my teens, I almost never want to deal with it at home. This technique obviates all that work AND delivers more substance for the dollar. Love it!!
thirschfeld June 20, 2012
I just picked, like 5 minutes ago, baby favas just right for this recipe. I can't wait to make it.
thirschfeld June 20, 2012
I just picked, like 5 minutes ago, baby favas just right for this recipe. I can't wait to make it.
Midge June 20, 2012
Love this idea! Hoping I can still score favas down here to try it out.