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Did I drop off the face of the Earth? Just about. This past week has been devoted entirely to moving and I have not had a spare minute to get in the kitchen and make a single thing. So much for my Italian Challenge. I guess I will have to extend my self imposed deadline on recreating dishes from my Italian honeymoon and give myself the entire Spring Season! The kitchen at my new house is finally put together though, and I am ready to eat cook. 

While planning our trip to Italy, one of our “must see” regions was the Amalfi Coast. After spending four days in the large, busy city of Rome, retreating south to the Amalfi Region was just what we needed. The coast line is unbelievable, and even more impressive are the century old cities carved into the sides of the steep mountains. As a “fun” honeymoon activity, my husband rented a Vespa and we experienced the crazy hairpin turns of the SS163 (the “highway”) at 60km/hr dodging head-on traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians. Although I thought the Vespa was terrifying (Luigi thought it was awesome), it was a great way to see all the hill towns and explore the region like locals.  Even with all the rocky terrain we saw citrus groves, grape vines, and vegetable gardens growing on the side of almost every hill. Agriculture is still a very important part of the local lifestyle, even in this region which is focused on hospitality and tourism. We had some of our best meals in the Amalfi Coast, and I would go back solely to gorge myself on all the delicious food.

Garden in Ravello overlooking the sea

Looking towards Capri island

One of my most favorite meals in Italy was at Maccus restaurant in Amalfi town. Even though it was just lunch, and a simple pasta dish at that, the flavors were so fresh and seasonal that it was a meal I’ll never forget. My husband and I always order two different dishes every time we go out so we can share and experience as much of a menu as possible. That day, we ordered the linguine with marinara and the special which was regional shaped pasta (each region makes their own traditional shape) with guanciale (pig jowl), fresh fava beans, and Amalfi lemons (there was also some local olive oil, garlic, and cheese thrown in). Fava beans had just come into season and they were so sweet and delicious, a great compliment to the rich and salty pork. The simplicity of the dish was why it was so good, and I knew I would have to attempt to make this dish when I returned home. The problem is fava beans have a very short Spring season (at least in my markets in Reno), so I had to wait a whole year to make this dish. The wait was worth it though, and I finally able to recreate my favorite Italian pasta dish. Although it wasn’t quite the same as eating in the open air of the Mediterranean, my take on the dish was almost as good and for a moment I did feel like I was back in Italy.

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Amalfi Pasta with Spring Fava Beans
Serves 2

1 lb Fresh Fava Beans – Removed from shell
1/4 lb Pancetta – diced
2 cloves Garlic – chopped
1 Lemon – zest and juice
3/4 lb Fresh Ditali Pasta (Pasta Recipe)
2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese – broken into shards
3/4 cup White Wine
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Prepare the favas by removing the beans from the pod. The tough outer coating of the bean still needs to be removed. You can do this by blanching or steaming the beans (about 1 minute). Once the outer shell has a wrinkly appearance, use a knife and remove the shell.                     
  2. Bring 3 qt water to a boil on the stove with 2 TBSP of salt. To prepare the fresh pasta, use this recipe for the dough. You can add an extra egg to the recipe, and the dough will be a little softer and easier to work with. Once the dough has rested for 30 minutes, roll out the pasta to thin sheets (using a pasta roller or by hand). Cut the Pasta into 2″x2″ squares. Using a 1″ tube mold (I used a metal tube for cannoli shells, but a wood dowel, or end of a whisk would work too), wrap the pasta around the tube and roll it against a cutting board so the two ends of the pasta square will overlap and squeeze together. Remove the pasta from the end of the tube mold and then cut the 2″ pasta tube into 4 smaller 1/2″ tubes. This pasta shape is called Ditali. Continue this process with the rest of the pasta dough. Cook the pasta in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes (until al dente), and then drain. 
  3. Cook the pancetta in a medium skillet with the garlic over medium heat. The fat should slowly render out and the pancetta will become crisp. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and garlic from the stove and drain. Reserve a TBSP of the fat from the pancetta.  
  4. Using the same skillet from the pancetta, heat the reserved pancetta fat over medium heat, add the fava beans and saute for about a minute. Season the favas with salt and pepper to taste, and then add the white wine, and lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes to allow the liquid to reduce just a little bit. Stir in the dijon (this will help thicken the sauce) and add the pancetta and garlic back to the skillet. Cook for another minute or two and then toss in the cooked pasta and olive oil. Saute for two minutes or so, or until the pasta is hot. Transfer pasta to serving plates and top with Parmigiano Reggiano.