Sardinia’s Way with Peas in Soup

Springtime in Sardinia means fava beans, peas, and a variety of other vegetables and fruit. One favorite way with fresh spring peas is in a minestra. A minestra can mean both a soup and a first course. But the difference between a zuppa (soup) and a minestra is that a minestra is usually a thicker soup that contains a grain, in this case it’s pasta, but it could be rice too. Peas have been known in the Mediterranean since Neolithic times but they didn’t become popular as a food until the sixteenth century. This springtime Sardinian minestra is made with fresh peas and fresh sheep’s milk ricotta with small pasta shapes of mixed variety.

Minestra di Piselli con Ricotta
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Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Sardinian
Serves: 4 servings
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 ounces mixed short pasta, such as ditalini, conchigliette, etc.
  • 4 pounds fresh pea pods, peas removed or 1 pound frozen peas
  • 5 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
  1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook, stirring, the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the water, tomato sauce, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the pasta and peas and cook, stirring, until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  2. Place a scoop of ricotta cheese in individual soup bowls and ladle the soup into the bowls, stir once or twice gently and serve.


Fava In A Moroccan Way

For fava devotees we are about to see those inviting fava bean pods appearing at our farmers markets. A delightful way to prepare the fresh fava beans is a way found in Morocco. In Morocco, this purée is served as a meze and called rafissa al-fūl or rafissa “de fèves fraîches” and can be served as a dip for warm or deep-fried pieces of flatbread. A rafis is an interesting dish with a history. We have a record of a Tunisian sheik of Qairouan (then the capital city of what is today Tunisia) in the fourteenth century who once a year shared a rafis, a dish made of wheat flour, dates, honey, butter, and other ingredients, in a celebration with the students of his zawiyya, a hospice and theological school. A recipe preserved from the fifteenth century tells us how to make rafis: “take pieces of bread smaller than an olive and mix with dates and honey until it looks like it will break apart. Work the mixture for a long time with the hands not over a fire until you get a rafis.” But this rafissa is nothing of the kind; it is a purée of fava.

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Fava Bean Puree
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Serve with black olives, fried flatbread chips or breadsticks, chopped tomatoes, and radishes. Serve as part of a meze.
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 6 servings
  • 3 pounds fresh fava beans in their pods, shelled
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt until mushy
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat then cook the fava beans for 10 minutes. Drain, then pinch off the peel and place the beans in a food processor with the garlic paste. With the machine running, pour the olive oil in through the feed tube. Stop for a moment and add the paprika and cumin. Continue running the processor until the beans are smooth.
  2. Spread the purée on a flat, round platter and serve with portions of pita bread. You can garnish the platter with black olives and small pieces of chopped tomatoes.


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