Roman-style Dried Fava Bean Soup with Pancetta and Marjoram: Paula’s recipe for a bean that most U.S. farmers consider a “throw-away” cover crop

(Serves 6)

When I lived in Morocco, I was taught this delicious, earthy fava bean soup by Mario Ruspoli, an old friend who frequently came down to Tangier from Paris to visit his mother. Mario was a renaissance man: a filmmaker, an expert on beetles and whaling, and a great gastronome. His mother, Princess Marta Ruspoli, was an eccentric who believed so fervently in the myth of Atlantis that she was totally snookered by her grandchildren when they cleverly seeded her garden with Indian head pennies. Finding one, she’s alleged to have exclaimed, “See, the red Indians were here! This proves Atlantis existed!”

In this recipe, which is said to be older than the Lost Continent, the meaty taste of dry ham and onion complement the resinous flavor of the favas.

Dried fava beans are one of the oldest food staples of countries bordering the Mediterranean. Buy them peeled online or at your local Middle Eastern store, being sure to choose the larger split variety for this particular soup.

Preferred Clay Pot:
A 3- or a 4-quart earthenware or ceramic flameware casserole
If using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pot.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups dried peeled fava beans (12 ounces), rinsed well, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water, and drained
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 slab (10 ounces) meaty pork belly or pancetta
  • 3 cups dried peeled fava beans (12 ounces), rinsed well, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water, and drained
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 slab (10 ounces) meaty pork belly or pancetta
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste, preferably sun-dried (page 00)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Grilled sliced bread

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Remove any brown bits of skin from the soaked beans; rinse them well and drain again.
  2. In a large heavy conventional saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add the favas and a pinch of salt; return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, or until the favas are tender. Drain the beans, discarding the cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, place the pork belly in another saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 8 to10 minutes. Drain into a colander, rinse, and drain again. Cut the pork belly into 1-inch cubes.
  4. Finely chop the prosciutto with the marjoram and parsley. Set the earthenware casserole over low heat. Add the prosciutto-herb paste and slowly warm it, gradually raising the heat to medium or medium-high. Add the olive oil and onion and continue to cook slowly, reducing the heat if necessary, until the mixture turns golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and diced pork belly. Pour 6 cups hot water over the mixture, add a pinch of salt, and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. In a deep bowl, crush about half of the fava beans to a puree with the back of a wooden spoon. Add to the pot with the remaining favas and continue to cook over medium-low heat until the soup is thick and chunky, about 30 minutes longer. Season with plenty of pepper and additional salt to taste. Serve hot with slices of grilled bread.

Excerpted from Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, by Paula Wolfert, copyrighted and used by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

© 2017 Paula Wolfert, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: December 1, 2016