Pasta with Fava Beans, Greens & Pancetta

By Ann Fulton

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This wholesome pasta dish was inspired by two great finds:  fresh fava beans and a green I had never before heard of–pak choy.  Upon further research, the name pak choy seems to be used interchangeably with boy choy.  However, what I bought (pictured below) was seemingly the shoot of the bok choy–a baby, baby bok choy!  It tastes like a crisper version of spinach with a crunchy stem.  My son and I saw it at a favorite organic stand at market, tried it, and a both loved it.  I knew it would work well in a myriad of dishes, from salad to stir-fry.

The fava beans came from a trip to a local produce company, where I found treasures that could inspire me in the kitchen for weeks!  I created this recipe with flavors I thought would allow these two ingredients to shine–sauteed pancetta and onion on a base of whole wheat spaghetti, with a light shaving of asiago cheese overtop.  I think gorgonzola would be delicious, too.

Since fava beans and pak choy aren’t your typical grocery-store finds, consider substituting shelled edamame or lima beans (thaw if frozen) for the favas and spinach, arugula, or tender kale leaves for the pak choy.  Although I specified 4-5 ounces of the greens, I often go a lot heavier on the greens in this type of recipe.  I like a high ratio of veggies to pasta, giving the meal the feel of a salad and creating a delicious, well-rounded, one-dish dinner.

If time allows, chop the pancetta and onion, blanch the beans, and prep your greens earlier in the day. Then, you can quickly saute these ingredients while the pasta is cooking and get dinner on the table quickly!


Pasta with Fava Beans, Greens & Pancetta
  • 2 cups shelled fava beans (can substitute edamame or lima beans, thawed if frozen)
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (brown rice noodles would be an excellent gluten-free alternative)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 ounces thinly-sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 4-5 ounces pak choy  (or baby bok choy, spinach, arugula, or tender kale leaves–chop if leaves are large)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (could use extra olive oil instead)
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • about a half cup of asiago cheese, grated or shaved with a vegetable peeler  (Pecorino Romano or gorgonzola would also be delicious)
  1. Blanch the fava beans in boiling water for two minutes, then drain well.  (At this point, you may remove the thin “skin.”  I didn’t bother and they tasted great and the texture was perfect.)  This step may be done in advance. Then, simply refrigerate the beans until you are ready to use.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.  Before draining, reserve a half cup of the cooking liquid.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet (I prefer a cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and the pancetta and cook until the onion is lightly browned and the pancetta is starting to get crispy, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the favas to the onions and pancetta and cook until the beans are tender, about 5 minutes more.  Season with a little salt and pepper.
  4. Add the drained pasta, the reserved liquid, the cream, and the greens to the fava mixture.  Toss to combine everything well.  Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Garnish with the asiago cheese or pass the cheese at the table.
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  1. Nanci McFarland

    This was tasty. I only had a small amount of bok choy so I added more veggies (cabbage, celery, carrots, mushrooms, garlic). I am glad that I read about how to prepare the fava beans (from soaking the whole pods to make it easier to open, parboiling the beans, then slipping the skins).

    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, Nanci. I’m delighted you enjoyed the recipe and found the details on preparing the fava beans helpful.