Baby Broad Beans And Ricotta Pasta
“One of the pasta dishes for which Sicily is known is the timballo, or baked pasta with aubergine, which has a tendency to dry out. Never fear this when fresh ricotta is at hand: its scrambled curds coat the pasta in creamy loveliness, leaving a pool of residual whey for mopping.”
-Mina Holland, The Edible Atlas: Around the World in Thirty-Nine Cuisines
When I was working in London I used to spend magical sunny weekends in deepest Somerset. I’d be given a trug of broad beans to pod and I’d chat away unguiltily, piously considering myself to be ‘helping’. Of course the beans were wonderful but now I don’t have a helper of my own and Life Is Too Short. The podded beans you find in the supermarket have been there long enough to have their fresh sugars turned to starch, and There Is No Way I am going to skin the larger beans (as advised by smart chefs) in addition to podding them. This is one of those situations to be a practical Martha – buy baby broad beans, I advise, frozen at the moment when their sweetness is still intact and have done with it.
This recipe is also good for bringing a taste of summer into the depths of winter – the dried mint and the frozen baby broad beans are, of course, available all year round.
And, as the quote above describes, if you can get hold of some really fresh ricotta, it becomes sublime.
Recipe for baby broad beans and ricotta pasta
- 250g/9 oz frozen baby broad beans
- 2 cups pasta, such as orecchiette
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with a little smoked salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried mint (or fresh… but dried has a lot of taste, alternatively you could add, with circumspection) some mint jelly)
- 250g/1¼ cups ricotta cheese (Waitrose does an excellent one)
- ⅔ cup/60g grated pecorino cheese
- about 80g/3 oz pancetta (leave out if you are vegetarian – add toasted pine nuts instead)
- Indonesian long pepper
Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.
- Take the ricotta out of the fridge and put plates in to warm.
- Fry the garlic and the pancetta in a little of the olive oil.
- Cook the frozen beans, either on the hob or in the microwave, again according to the instructions on the packet, and drain.
- Take the frying pan off the heat and add the broad beans, the ricotta, about half the pecorino, the dried mint and the pepper.
- Mix into the just cooked and drained pasta.