A technique I have always liked, when preparing vegetables for a pasta dish, is to toss them in the pot with the pasta as it boils. Depending on which takes longer, I put the vegetable in first and then add the pasta, or vice versa. Either way, I believe this maximizes the flavor and nutritional value of the vegetables, and I know the pasta absorbs some of the vegetable flavor as they cook in the same water. I was glad to see this technique used frequently in preparing pasta dishes in Calabria, like this one, where orecchiette and arugula are cooked in the pot together before they are tossed with the other dressing vegetables, favas, and cherry tomatoes. Great to make when fresh favas are in the market.
- 3 pounds fresh fava-bean pods, shelled
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 pound orecchiette
- 1 pound arugula leaves, washed and trimmed: young leaves left whole, larger leaves torn into pieces
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano, plus more for passing at the table
You will need a medium saucepan for blanching the favas; a heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 12-inch diameter or larger; a large pot for cooking the pasta.
In the medium saucepan, bring about 4 quarts of salted water to boil, drop in the shelled favas, and blanch about 2 minutes, until they turn bright green. Drain the beans, and drop them right away into a large bowl of ice water. When chilled, drain the favas again; peel off the inner skins and discard. You should have about 2 cups peeled favas. Pour ¼ cup of the olive oil into the skillet, and set it over medium heat. Scatter the favas and sliced onion in the pan, stir, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drop the cherry tomatoes into the skillet, and season with the salt. Cook until the cherry tomatoes release their juices and begin to break down, about 5 minutes; keep the sauce warm, but not cooking, until the pasta is dressed.
Meanwhile, fill the pasta pot with salted water, and heat to a rolling boil. Drop in the orecchiette, stir, and return to the boil. Cook the pasta until it’s approximately 5 minutes from being done (according to the cooking time on the package), then stir the arugula into the pot. Cook the pasta and arugula together for another 4 minutes or so, until the orecchiette is al dente, then lift both from the pot with a large strainer (or empty the pot into a colander if you prefer), and drop the pasta and arugula into the skillet of sauce. Toss everything together for a minute or two, over low heat, then turn off the heat, drizzle on the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and toss well. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top, and toss again. Heap the pasta in warm bowls, and serve immediately, with more cheese at the table.