Scafata - Fava Bean Stew
Scafata is a typical recipe from the region of Umbria made with a variety of spring vegetables. The word scafata derives from the name scafo which is dialect for the fava pod. This dish is considered to be part of la cucina contadina or “the farmer’s cuisine”, because this simple recipe uses everything that can be easily procured from the land. Pancetta is included in the traditional recipe, but for a vegetarian version like this, it can simply be left out.
Fava beans, or broad beans, are the oldest known beans in the world and are the star of this recipe and used as well in a variety of other Mediterranean dishes. They grow in a soft fuzzy pod, and are much larger than peas. Although in some countries it is custom to peel the transparent skin off the bean, here in Italy, the fava beans are often just shucked from the pod and cooked.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Salt the water then add the fava beans and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain them and reserve the hot water.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a skillet then add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
Now add the fava beans, tomatoes, swiss chard and half of a ladle of the hot water. Cover the skillet and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan.
Now that the scafata is ready, boil the peas for 1-2 minutes in the reserved water, drain and add to the fava mixture. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm o cold. This dish is best made a day or two in advance and eaten cold or reheated.
*To easily remove the tomato skins, stick the tomatoes in the freezer over night then run them under warm water to easily remove the skin. Alternatively, you can blanch them for 1 minute and then run them under cold water and the skins will easily come off quite easily.