Make Ahead

Asparagus & Fava Beans With Tonnato

October  4, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Melina Hammer
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 7 minutes
  • Serves 1 as a main or 2 as a side
Author Notes

As spring gets closer each day, I’m filled with a giddy lightness, very much looking forward to the brown landscape transforming into one filled with buds and tenderest leaves. This much-awaited season makes for easy eating, where only a little cooking is needed to make foods to shine. Tonnato sauce, which I rave all about here, makes an ideal pairing for seasonal stars fava beans and tender asparagus spears. Once the sauce is made, it will keep for up to 1 week. It is so versatile and delicious, however, it likely won’t last that long. If you cannot find fava beans, fresh or thawed frozen peas work just as well. You could also use thin green beans, snap peas, broccoli florets, even sunflower sprouts. Really, anything juicy and green can be swapped in! Similarly, feel free to explore different crunchy bits instead of the sunflower seeds, such as toasted pecans or walnuts. After draining the tuna, save that oil for salads or cooked grains. —Melina Hammer

What You'll Need
  • Tonnato
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 (6.7-ounce) jar oil-packed tuna, drained
  • 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed of their salt
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • Vegetables
  • 1 cup fava beans, shucked
  • 6 ounces thin asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons tonnato (above)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped curly parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Tonnato
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, tuna, capers, anchovies, pepper, oil, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of water in a small high-speed blender. Blitz until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add another tablespoon of water and blitz again until uniform. Transfer the tonnato to a jar with a lid and chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 week.
  1. Vegetables
  2. Blanch the fava beans for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water, then plunge into an ice bath until cool. Squeeze or peel the favas to remove and discard the skins.
  3. Snap the woody ends from the asparagus and set up a steamer (I place a steamer basket in a large saucepan filled with about an inch of water). Steam the asparagus over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until bright green. Shock the asparagus in an ice bath to halt their cooking. Transfer the spears to a tea towel and blot dry.
  4. Swirl the tonnato onto a plate. Nestle the fava beans on one side and stack asparagus next to them. Top with the sunflower seeds, a shower of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, and lots of pepper.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • So sett
    So sett
  • Melina Hammer
    Melina Hammer
  • Avalon2
  • inflytur
Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.

5 Reviews

Avalon2 February 27, 2023
The recipe calls for tuna packed in oil but in your "get the ingredients" there is only tuna in water listed.
inflytur April 4, 2021
The tonnato is a fabulous sauce. I can see that I am going to want to always have some in my fridge this summer to turn steamed and raw veggies into a meal. I just had some with freshly steamed asparagus and broccolini with a sliced Persian cucumber. A perfect late lunch.
Melina H. April 5, 2021
That is exactly it. Perfect approach, and versatile with so many things. Yaaaay!
So S. March 19, 2021
Yummier than expected!
Made it with asparagus and frozen fava beans (both thrown into a pot of boiling water). If you live near a Chinese grocery store, they might have fresh fava beans or frozen fava beans (蚕豆) somewhere tucked away.

Slightly charred the sunflower seeds as I wasn't watching too closely, felt it tasted even better to be honest.
Melina H. March 28, 2021
I am so happy it was yummier than you thought it would be!
Brilliant idea to store frozen favas. It's not often I come across them, so I'll keep an eye out.