Spaghetti with fresh fava beans & guanciale

olive grove in Umbria in the spring

Spaghetti, fave, guanciale, pecorino and country walks.

Umbria is impossibly green right now and, after a long period of restrictions, it’s finally possible to make walks on a different mountain! Ruurd and I are restless. We have been confined here in our small community for several months. As a consequence we find every excuse to go the the next village or town just for the sake of a small trip. One day the excuse is to explore unknown woodlands to pick wild asparagus.

On another day we must drive 30 minutes to buy a special salami at a favorite butcher shop. Next, we discover it is absolutely urgent to visit a second-hand shop hunting for photography props. In truth, it feels wonderful to be on another road, in another town, to meet and greet other people, even a different olive grove is exciting! We are relieved but worried it will not last as the numbers are wobbly. However, deep in our hearts we just wish to be free and live our simple life.

It’s still unseasonably cold but the valley below Assisi is full of rapeseed flowers which makes it look like fields of gold. I am eager to work on my small container garden but I know by experience that I can only plant when the nights are finally warm. At least my parsley is looking better and I might even get a handful of strawberries from a pot that Tea has left in my care. Obviously, se could not carry it to The Netherlands. We miss her so much.

Are you bored of cabbages? I really can’t take them anymore. I have a red cabbage I bought a few days ago because it looked gorgeous but I can’t make myself to cook it. Luckily the markets are full of marvelous artichokes, asparagus, loquats and piles of fava beans. If this was a normal year, every self respecting Umbrian restaurant would have this simple pasta in their menu. The Romans call this sauce “Gricia with fava beans”, but with just call it pasta with fave, pecorino and guanciale.

Should you not have access to fava beans, substitute with blanched shelled green peas. Shelling the fava will take some time, but it’s all worth it. Very young and tender favas don’t need shelling, but the skin of more mature beans is bitter and needs to be removed.


  • 200 g (7 oz) spaghetti
  • 200 g (1 cup) broad beans (yields 6 tablespoons shelled broad beans)
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons very finely grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 60 g (2 oz) guanciale or cured pancetta

If you buy fresh fava beans in the pod, you will need about 1/2 kg (1 lb) per person. Remove the beans from the pods, then blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes, or until some of the skins start to split. Drain and refresh under cold water. Remove the skins and set aside.
Dice the guanciale or pancetta, then sauté in 1 teaspoon of olive oil, until it just starts to become crispy.
In a pan large enough to hold all the pasta, sauté the garlic clove in olive oil until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and mix briefly to infuse them with the oil. Take off the heat and add the guanciale.
Bring the Pecorino and milk to room temperature, then transfer to a serving bowl and mix together.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of pasta water. Transfer the pasta into the pan that holds the beans and guanciale, turn the heat up to high, add some pasta water and quickly stir to combine. Transfer the pasta into the bowl with the Pecorino and milk mixture, stir vigorously.
Serve immediately with additional cheese and a sprinkle of black pepper, if desired.

Serves 2.

PS. Do you already have my cookbooks? BTW both “A Kitchen with a View” and “Festa Italiana” make a wonderful gift for mother’s day. Click on the titles to order or visit the Cookbooks page, thank you!

Wonderful photo by: Smitten Italy



    • Frank I am not against frozen fava beans, they freeze very well and retain most of their flavor. As for the wild asparagus, you should definitely plan a trip to Italy in the spring!

  1. Cara Letizia, To see that glorious shot of the rapeseed is just extraordinary. Did you know that rapeseed is the source of 13 percent of the world’s vegetable oil? How I wish I could see Italy this summer. We shall wait and see…
    My very best to you, Letizia. Monte

    • Monte I’m so looking forward to see you here this summer, I think it will happen, let’s cross fingers!

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