Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine and fancy sauces aren’t needed because Tuscans use pure, strong flavors and the freshest ingredients. Many dishes have peasant origins, and ingredients like legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are commonly used. Different types of beans, like fava beans that are featured in this recipe, have long been a big part of the diet as well. Tuscany is also the most famous wine zone in Italy, producing wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti and Chianti Classico, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This particular recipe is an everyday pasta dish that is fast and easy to make. Pancetta provides you with something the chew, and the cherry tomatoes are a fresh addition bringing some color into the mix. Pecorino Romano cheese is used instead of Parmigiano.
1 onion, sliced
140 gr/ 5 oz smoked pancetta
2 small cans of broad a.k.a. fava beans
5 dl/ 2 cups vegetable stock
250 gr/ 9 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
salt an pepper to taste
freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion until it becomes golden. Add the pancetta cubes and continue frying for a few minutes. Add the fava beans and the vegetable stock and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain.
Once the fava beans have softened and the liquid has been reduced, add the tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer for a minute or two, and season with salt and pepper. Mix the sauce with the cooked and drained pasta. Garnish each plate with fresh thyme and freshly ground Pecorino Romano.
Sometimes it’s good to get creative! This refreshingly different pasta recipe features a new vegetable, broccolini, which is a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan a.k.a. Chinese broccoli. It is similar to broccoli although it has smaller florets and long, thin stalks. The taste of this newcomer – developed in Japan in 1993 – is similar to broccoli and asparagus. And you definitely can’t complain about its nutritional values, because it is high in vitamin C and also contains vitamin A, calcium, folate, and iron. The second creative aspect of this dish is the recipe for the pesto. This Ligurian delight is traditionally made with basil, garlic, pine nuts with olive oil and Parmigiano. This time around the basil gets replaced with the strong taste of the rocket. At the end you will have a pasta plate that awakens your palate to a whole new world of endless possibilities.
40 gr/ 1 2/3 oz rocket
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
50 gr/ 1 2/3 oz Parmigiano, freshly grated
2-3 tbsp pine nuts
130 gr/ 4.5 oz pancetta, in cubes (optional)
400 gr/ 14 oz broccolini
black pepper to taste
Pesto di rucola: Mix the rocket, garlic, Parmigiano, the pine nuts and olive oil in a blender. If needed, add salt. The end result should be creamy and smooth. The pesto can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
The pasta: Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the pancetta cubes and fry them over a low heat. Add the rinsed broccolini and continue frying for ca. 4-6 minutes until the broccolini has softened a bit. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Mix the pesto with the pasta, and arrange the pancetta cubes and the broccolini on them. Sprinkle some black pepper and serve immediately.