With Spring upon us, here is a dish which combines a number of traditional Italian items to create a fresh and tantalising meal to awaken the tastebuds after a long cold winter period.
One of those early Spring ingredients that many Italians seem to find irresistible and go crazy for is broad beans. They have a unique flavour, texture and colour and although used both raw and cooked in many dishes are (in my opinion) best incorporated into a pesto style sauce swirled through warm, fresh pasta.
This recipe is a Little Hill Farm creation and blend of a few traditional pesto recipes – Salsa Maro, Walnut Pesto and a Salsa Verdi. To make this dish, you must use fresh broad beans, the smaller they are the sweeter and better the pesto will be.
500 grams fresh broad beans
1 garlic clove (minced)
150 grams toasted walnuts
100 grams toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons of fresh basil, parsley or mint (chopped finely)
pinch of rock salt
50 grams grated pecorino or parmigiano (parmesan) cheese
extra virgin olive oil
fresh Italian egg pasta – preferably a flat variety (fettuccine, linguini, tagliatelle)
1. Double peel the broad beans, this means remove the beans from the long hairy pod in which they sit and then removing the outer casing of each individual bean. It will depend on the age of the beans as to the ease of removing the outer casing on the individual beans. Young beans (the size of a fingernail) can be peeled with little effort, older beans may be more difficult to peel – if so, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes and then refresh in icy, cold water prior to peeling.
Be certain to retain a handful of the double peeled broad beans and whole walnut halves for sprinkling over the surface of the final dish.
2. Place handfuls of the peeled broad beans into a mortar and pestle and pound to create a course paste (depending on size of mortar you may need to make it in batches). Once all beans have been broken add garlic, herb of choice and salt and continue grinding until smooth.
3. Place into a bowl and then crush handfuls of the toasted walnuts and pine nuts into the mortar and pestle and crush to a fine crumb adding the crumb to the bowl with the broad beans.
4. Continue until all the nuts are crushed and broken, then add cheese to the mixing bowl and combine the ingredients well.
5. Once incorporated, slowly stir and drizzle olive oil into the mixture until the paste will not absorb any more oil.
6. Set aside and cook your pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and return to boiling pot.
7. Gradually spoon much of the pesto through the warm pasta and fold through. Then place pasta onto individual serving plates and add a final spoonful of pesto to the top of the dish and sprinkle of the reserved broad beans and walnut halves.
8. Serve and enjoy … and of course, add extra cheese at the dinner table before eating.