Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pasta with Fava Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, and Pistachio Pesto

It was 103 degrees in NYC yesterday so there was no way in the world I was going to stand in the kitchen any longer than absolutely necessary.  We live on the 4th floor of a small walkup building and it gets – and stays – really hot in our apartment.  Combine that with the fact our air conditioners are small units that are not really capable of cooling down a 100 degree room and you have a recipe for a very hands-off dinner.

Eating out and a big salad were not options (the former because we have so much produce from our CSA share and the latter because we had already had one for lunch), nor were turning on the oven or anything that needed more than 20 minutes on the stove so as to not overheat the apartment or the person standing over the stove in the kitchen (which would be me).

A simple pasta or grain dish with fresh vegetables and a no-cook sauce was obviously the way to go. It worked out conveniently that I got fava beans and sugar snap peas in this week’s CSA share – the two get along great and can be eaten nearly raw (the fava beans need to be blanched and shelled, but that’s not too big a deal) so they were definitely being included in dinner.  Mint and peas is a classic combination and I love mint-pistachio pesto, so an overabundance of mint and a big bag of pistachios were a no-brainer for the mint, basil, and pistachio pesto – a twist on a traditional pesto that requires just a quick trip through the mini chopper.  I used dried orechiette that took only 10 minutes to cook and they served as a great base for the pesto and fresh green vegetables - the little indentations are great for holding the pesto. The combination was a winner: the peas, beans, and pesto melded together beautifully and was satisfying without being heavy, just the right thing on a sweltering day.

The stove was on for maybe 15 minutes and a local, delicious dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes – perfect for a freakishly hot day when you want to eat in but have no desire to make your insanely hot apartment any hotter than it already is.


Pasta with Fava Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, and Pistachio Pesto
serves 4 or 6 as part of a larger meal
vegan if not using cheese; gluten-free

For the pasta
1 lb fresh fava beans
1 lb small short pasta (I used orecchiete)
1 lb sugar snap peas

For the pesto
3/4 cup pistachios
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
¼ cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.   Remove the fava beans from their pods and trim and string the sugar snap peas, cutting larger pods in half.

Add the beans to the water and cook for 1 minute.  Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the beans to an ice bath.   Return the water to a boil and blanch the sugar snap peas for 1-2 minutes.  Transfer the peas to an ice bath.

When the beans are cool, drain them and remove them from their shells by pinching off the end of the shell and popping the beans out.  Set the shelled beans aside.

Add more salt to the water and return it to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto.  Add the pistachios to the bowl of a food processor or mini chopper and pulse a few times to chop the nuts - a few larger pieces are ok, they'll add texture to the final dish.  Add the basil and mint and pulse a few more times to chop the herbs.  Add half of the oil and mix for a few seconds to combine, then repeat with the remaining oil.  The pesto should be about as thick as tomato paste (you will loosen it later with pasta water). Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is done, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and transfer it to a large bowl.  Add 1 cup of the cooking water to the pesto and mix to combine.  Add the pesto, fava beans, and sugar snap peas to the bowl and toss to combine.  Add more cooking water, if necessary, to thin the pesto into a sauce that coats all the other components.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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