This new series, which has been a post-it in my mind for the past year and a half, is dedicated to all the Italian moms I know who cook amazing dishes on a daily basis. I’ll be giving you a peek inside their kitchens as well as their real, authentic recipes to recreate the dishes for your own families and friends.
“As usual, I have a hundred things to prepare!” Maria laughs, holding up bags of produce, pointing to fresh mushrooms in a pile on the counter, proudly displaying her freshly made favetta e cicoria, which simmers on the stove in a terra cotta pot. It’s a puree of fava beans mixed with steamed chicory; once a staple in the peasant diet, and now considered a lost delicacy.
She looks gorgeous in a multicolored, patterned jumpsuit, dangly earrings and her wild, black curls tied up in a ponytail. She pushes her red glasses up on her nose and tells me, as if I wasn’t already impressed, “I’m also going to make a batch of fries.” She pours the oil in a cast iron skillet and I realize that she is actually going to fry them. They’re matchstick style, and cook up fast. She gives me tips on everything as I squeeze in next to her in the tiny kitchen that really only one person should fit in.
Lunch is served and the favetta e cicoria is steaming on my plate. Maria sprinkles a few seeds from a fresh peperoncino on top, (“it’s good for you”) and a drizzle of olive oil from her hometown, Andria. I give it a mix and the the taste is delicate, creamy, earthy. The bitterness of the greens is balanced by the sweetness of the pureed dried fava beans. I grab a pen and paper and immediately jot down the recipe.
She tells me that her nonna used to make it for her family all the time, but the kids would eat just the favetta mixed with pasta. “You know, I would eat it like that still today.”
Maria’s Favetta e Cicoria (Pureed Fava Beans and Chicory)
(for about 3 servings)
1 cup dried fava beans
1 potato, peeled and sliced into rounds
5 bay leaves
1 pound chicory (You can also use swiss chard or escarole)
salt to taste
Rinse the beans in cold water. Put in a pot with the potato and the bay leaves. Cover completely with water making sure there is about an inch of water on top. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for about an hour and a half. During this time, the beans will gradually absorb all the water and cook. If you see that they aren’t quite soft yet, but have absorbed all the water, add more. When they’re super soft, take out the bay leaves and puree the mixture. Set aside.
Simply boil the greens in salted water. When they are soft, after about 5 minutes, strain very well. Add them to the lava mixture. Add salt to taste and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and some peperoncino if you like it.
Maria finishes telling me the recipe, “…then you put the oil on top and Amen!” Which is fitting, because her favetta e cicoria couldn’t be more heavenly.