Bean-tastic Twist on Pesto

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Much of my recipe inspiration comes from really good food finds.  An heirloom vegetable at the farmer’s market, a new cheese from the local fromagerie or even something as simple as a beautiful bunch of fresh herbs, all excite me and motivate me to get in the kitchen.  Its part of the reason why I find cooking and eating so much fun!  I get especially excited when I find an ingredient I’ve never seen or used before.  Like on Saturday I came across big, lime green fava beans.  And I’ve never seen them at the grocery store or farmer’s market before and have never cooked with them.  So, of course I snapped up a quart of these pre-shelled beauties and brought them home.

I think I knew the second I saw them, what I was going to make – fava bean pesto.  I dont know where the idea came from, but it just sounded good in my head.  I mean, why not?  Most things that are pureed with olive oil and parmesan cheese are pretty darn good.  Not too many possible mistakes there.  Plus the beans in addition to whole wheat pasta make one of those complete proteins I’ve mentioned before (any legume plus a grain).  Great for us vegetarians.

However, as I researched the best cooking method for these giant fava beans, I came to the unfortunate realization that these things needed to be peeled after they’ve been cooked!  After a quick 5 minute soak in boiling water, fava beans need to have their tougher outer skin removed.  It’s not very hard, I’ll admit.  Just somewhat boring.  But what else was I gonna do on a rainy Sunday?  So boil and peel I did.  It really didn’t take that long, and I was happily surprised that once peeled, the fava beans were a brilliant neon green color.  I sampled a few and they were really delicious – somewhat of a more starchy pea.  Sweet, mild flavor with a starchy lima bean consistency.

After my taste test, I tossed them in the food processor and whirled them away with the typical pesto ingredients.  Tossed with hot whole wheat penne, cherry tomatoes and of course an extra sprinkling of parmesan cheese made an excellent Sunday night dinner.  The starch from the fava beans turned the pesto into a rich and thick sauce – it felt like it was a lot unhealthier than it really was!  My typa dish!  If you ever come across fava beans, and you have some free time, I encourage you to try them.  But if you’re not up for the peeling part, you could swap the fava beans for regular defrosted green peas!

Fava Bean Pesto and Penne:


  • 1 qt cooked and shelled fava beans
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (depends on consistency)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 qt cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat penne pasta


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. To cook fava beans, add to boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool.  Carefully peel the outer thick skin, reserving the bright green insides for the pesto.
  3. In the food processor, add garlic, fava beans, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil, and lemon juice.  Pulse a few times until finely chopped.
  4. With the food processor running, slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil, stopping every now again to check consistency and flavor.  Depending on how thick or thin you like your pesto, add more oil for a thinner pesto or less for a thicker sauce.
  5. Heat a large sauce pan over medium low heat and add pesto and cherry tomatoes.  Cook gently for a few minutes or until pasta is ready.
  6. Add hot pasta to warmed pesto and tomato mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Serve warm with extra parmesan cheese if desired.



  1. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies

    December 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Adding beans to pesto is such a good idea! I’m totally going to have to try this. 🙂 I wonder if cannellini beans would work too?

  2. Dario

    December 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Your ‘regular’ pesto recipe is awesome, but I think I have to bump this one up to number one!

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