Ligurian Raw Fava Bean Spread (or Pasta Sauce)

Marò

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • About

    1½ cups

    Marò Spread or Sauce

Appears in

If you are vacationing in an exquisitely romantic place, spending your days by a spectacular pool overlooking a picture-perfect harbor, what do you discuss with the terrifically good-looking, friendly pool attendant? If the place is Portofino on the Italian Riviera, and the pool belongs to a hotel called the Splendido, and the pool attendant happens to be Danilo Solari, the answer is: You talk about food; what else?

Danilo’s overruling passion is the food of his native Liguria—the region whose jagged coast forms the Riviera. It’s indeed a cuisine to fall for. No other cooks in the country have such a bold, high-spirited way of using vegetables and herbs and of making pasta sauces. It is cooking with an impish touch that combines dynamic contrasts of flavor with provocative aromas. Hard to resist, but who would want to?

We were talking about fava beans, the most alluring of fresh beans, regrettably limited to a short period in early spring. I love to use them in soup, or stewed with pork jowl in the Roman style, but what I most look forward to, when the season is at hand, are the first young, tender fava that I shell and eat raw, sprinkling them with a little coarse salt, and accompanying them with a choice Tuscan or Sardinian pecorino. Danilo agrees, but he asks: Have you ever used raw fava to make marò? I hadn’t even heard of it, let alone made it. The following day Danilo brought me an old Ligurian recipe book from his collection, and there it was. And here it is.

Marò, a creamy emulsion of raw fava beans, cheese, garlic, and olive oil, can be used as an appetizer spread on crackers or bread; as a condiment for boiled meats, cold baked ham, or roast beef; as a dip for raw oysters; over steamed mussels; or as a pasta sauce. The density of the marò made from the recipe here is intended for use as a spread or dip. If used as a condiment, it should be loosened with a little more olive oil. If you want it on pasta, hold back some of the water in which you cooked the pasta and add a tablespoon or two to the marò, when tossing it with the pasta. A boxed factory-made dry pasta such as spaghettini, thin spaghetti, or fusilli would be the one to choose.

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Ingredients

  • pounds unshelled fava beans (see Note)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese (see step 2 below)
  • ½ teaspoon very finely chopped garlic
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • Black pepper ground fresh

Method

  1. Shell the beans out of their pods and slip your fingernail or the tip of a small paring knife under the pale skin of each bean to peel it away. You should obtain about cups shelled and peeled beans.
  2. Before proceeding, taste the grated Romano cheese. If it is exceedingly salty, reduce the quantity slightly, A Sardinian pecorino cheese of grating consistency such as fiore sardo, if it is available, is a mellower and desirable alternative to Romano.
  3. Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process to a creamy consistency.

Serving Suggestions

As an appetizer or snack or with an aperitif, spread over rounds of grilled or toasted crusty bread. As a condiment, spoon over boiled meats or fish, or over cold sliced roast beef.

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