Monday, November 21, 2011

Broad beans 101 and a recipe

One of our favourite family pasta recipes originally came from my Italian sisters-in-law and includes broad beans. I normally make it with frozen ones as the season is short, but when we visited my mum recently she was growing a little forest of them! So I jumped at the chance to make this favourite with some fresh tender beans for a change.

And in case you're not familiar with them I thought I'd show you a little about this lovely bean...

Broad beans growing and being harvested (enthusiastically!).

Freshly picked beans

The beans podded. The outer shells (on the left) are discarded (great for your worm farm or compost bin) and you end up with a pile of single podded beans.

If your beans are a bit old or a bit large it's good to double pod them as they may be a bit chewy - the most tender part is right inside (see pic below). The easiest way to double pod them is to heat the single podded beans briefly by boiling, steaming or microwaving them for a couple of minutes, then when cool pinching/slitting the pod open and slipping the bright green inner pod out.

Keep in mind that if you buy broad beans frozen they come single podded and need to be podded (making them double podded - phew... still with me? :-).

Left: unpodded Centre: single podded Right: double podded

Spaghetti with tomato broad bean sauce & garlic croutons
serves around 6

Tomato sauce (this is my version, you can use another basic recipe or buy a ready made sauce to speed it up)
1 small brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Garlic croutons
Olive oil
cubed bread, about 3 cups (we like either Italian or Turkish bread but any crusty loaf will do)

Cook the tomato sauce first: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Fry onion and garlic until onion starts to go translucent. Add tinned tomatoes, water, sugar, salt and pepper, stir then simmer for at least half an hour. The flavour will keep developing the longer it's cooked - add a little water if it starts to get too dry.

Pod the broad beans and add to the tomato sauce, heating for another 10 minutes or so. They don't need much cooking.

Next cook the croutons: heat a few splashes of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the cubed bread and garlic and fry, stirring constantly so all the sides get a little browned and crisp. Sprinkle with a little salt if you wish. I like salt flakes.

Cook pasta according to instructions on the pack. Place a pile on each plate, add a spoonful of tomato broad bean sauce and then sprinkle some croutons on top. Finish with parmesan cheese.

• Tomato sauce can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. It also freezes well, so you can always double the recipe and freeze half for another time.

Can we eat it yet Mum? Stop taking photos and let us eat!


  1. Oooohhh, broad beans- my favourite! As a child I loved sliding them out of their cotton wool sleeping bags... & the taste of them is just wonderful (although I don't really understand why anyone goes to all the trouble of skinning the individual beans because I think the skins taste good too!)


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