It’s been raining so much where I live that the grass seems to have Green Giant superpowers and I’m starting to have a tiny inkling what it could be like to live in the Pacific Northwest. Notice I said “tiny”.
I realize that 2 or 3 days of back-to-back misty gray couldn’t ever compare to seemingly endless months without blue skies. It’s just that when the sun has popped out for a few minutes lately, it’s been notable. In the lights blinking on in the middle of the night during a power outage kind of way. But the upside is that the world outdoors is such a Technicolor shade of green, actually shades of green with all the chartreuse new growth exploding everywhere, that it hurts my eyes a little. In a good way, of course.
Verdant shades of green have been part of my cooking lately too, and I don’t expect that will fade anytime soon. And just wait – ramps are coming!
Fava beans are one of those harbingers of spring I like to grab while they last. Usually at this early point in the season favas are still pretty tiny and tender, but the ones I brought home recently were more manly in stature – big boys. I have a feeling they were grown somewhere south of California, if you know what I mean. When the beans are bigger than a thumbnail – 1/2 inch or so – they develop more starch. Which makes them a perfect filling for ravioli.
Favas are a bit of work, but not tediously so, as shelling tiny peas can sometimes be. They require a two-step process to prepare for cooking, shucking them first from their thick-skinned velvety pods and then peeling off the tougher outer coat surrounding the bean, which simply means the cook is free to enjoy the Zen-like peaceful place of soothing repetition. If you’re into that sort of thing, I mean.
If you can find fresh pasta sheets at your local store or Italian market, making a batch of these ravioli becomes a few steps simpler.
- Ravioli dough:
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3 whole large eggs
- 3 cups flour, all-purpose or Italian-style “00”; plus additional
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ pounds fava beans in their pods
- ¼ cup finely grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese, plus additional
- 3 tablespoons drained whole milk ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint or Italian parsley
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 leeks, sliced into thin matchsticks
- ½ pound asparagus, sliced into ½-inch pieces
- To make the ravioli dough, pulse the egg yolks, whole eggs, 3 cups flour and salt in a food processor until the dough comes together in a ball. Add more flour if the dough seems very sticky. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead briefly until the dough is smooth. Gather into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour at room temperature.
- To make the filling, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Shell the favas, then drop them into the water to blanch for 2 minutes; drain. When cool enough to handle, make a small tear on the tough outer skins and peel them off. You should have about 3 cups peeled fava beans.
- Reserve ½ cup of the fava beans, and put the rest in a food processor along with the ricotta, grated cheese, mint and pepper. Puree to a thick, smooth consistency. Be sure to taste the mixture for salt as needed.
- Divide dough into 4 portions, keeping reserved dough covered while working so it doesn’t dry out. Flour the dough and roll into thin 3-inch wide sheets on a pasta machine (I stop at setting 6 on my hand-cranked Atlas). Trim the sheets into workable sections about 2 feet long and place on a lightly floured surface.
- Form the fava filling into small balls about 1-inch in diameter and arrange 1 inch apart in the center of pasta sheet. Make an egg wash with an egg white and a drop of water, and brush over the dough all around the filling. Fold dough lengthwise over the filling, pressing gently between each ravioli and pinching to seal along the open edge.
- Cut the ravioli with a fluted cutter or use a pizza cutter if you don’t have one. Transfer the ravioli to a floured tray and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sweat the leeks with a pinch of salt until soft; add the asparagus, cover and cook 2 minutes, until tender but still bright green. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved fava beans.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the ravioli in about 6 at a time and cook until they float to the surface, usually less than 3 minutes. Remove ravioli using a slotted spoon or mesh skimmer and keep warm; transfer to a serving bowl and combine with the sauce. Serve right away with more grated cheese alongside.