Friday, June 19, 2009

Baked Fava Beans with Fresh Ricotta

Proof that yet again, you can do amazing things with random cans of beans in your kitchen. I love the heartiness of fava beans- their nutty taste can really boost a vegetarian meal! They're also a popular spring bean, so be sure to check for fresh ones at your local farmer's market. Instead of making a salad, as fava beans are regularly prepared throughout the Mediterranean, I was inspired by NYT columnist Mark Bittman's comprehensive tome, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (which, if you don't already own it, is worth adding to your vegetarian cookbook collection), in which he bakes fava beans with mozzarella. Though this recipe is largely his, I made just a few changes- like using fresh salt free ricotta, or myzithra, from Titan Foods in Astoria- and it was so yummy and perfect for one of these rainy nights we've been having that I had to post this. Buon appetito!


The Whats:

* 2 cans fava beans, drained and rinsed
* 3 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1/4 cup for drizzling
* 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I used one with some basil already in it!)
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* a palmful of torn parsley leaves
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1 cup fresh ricotta
* 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
* 1/2 cup pecorino romano

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, mix together the fava beans, two tablespoons of the olive oil, some salt & pepper, and a few of the torn parsley leaves. Cover and set aside.

3) To make the tomato sauce: heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, half the parsley leaves, and salt & pepper if desired. Allow sauce to cook for 20 minutes, or until sauce thickens slightly.

4) Pour entire batch of the tomato sauce at the bottom of a large 13"x9" baking dish. Layer fava beans over the tomato sauce. Spoon dollops of ricotta over the fava beans, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Garnish with onions, additional parsley, basil, or whatever you like. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over the beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until topping is crisp and sauce bubbles at the edges of the baking dish. Serve hot.

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