Sardinian Gnocchi with Fava Beans and Fennel
Another of the great, simple joys of the Summer season is the appearance of lovely, tender and fresh fava beans on the market stalls! No, I have no problem at all with popping open a can of cannelini or kidney beans and I do think that life is generally speaking too short to be going to the trouble of soaking dried beans over night, just to make my single-serving portion. But you can't be the fresh ones!
These tender beauties are cooked and perfect in just 4-5 minutes and go wonderfully with some smokey pancetta and lightly caramelized fennel... topped with some crispy breadcrumbs, this is a combination you may well enjoy! ;-) See how I made it below!
The cute little pasta shells I used for this dish are known as "gnocchetti Sardi", or "Sardinian gnocchi"- they are a smaller, slimmer version of the potato gnocchi shape, but made of dry, durum wheat, as opposed to the potato and flour ones. They take surprisingly long to cook at 12 minutes... but that just gives you plenty of time to prepare the rest of the ingredients without rushing- which can only be a good thing!
So whilst the pasta is cooking, cut some pancetta or bacon into small pieces and pop it into your frying pan with the sliced fennel. Sautée at a moderate heat until they begin to brown gently and then add some chopped garlic, some Spring onion and a little nutmeg. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and season with salt, pepper and a little cayenne. Keep stirring so that everything gets a tiny bit of a sugar coating, which of course quickly melts and caramelizes... so be careful not to have the heat too high or the sugar will start to turn too brown and go bitter!
After 7-8 minutes of cooking time, add the shelled beans to the gnocchi so that they will be cooked and tender by the time the pasta is "al dente". Once it is done, drain the pasta briefly and add it to the other ingredients in the frying pan. Mix thoroughly and serve with a sprinkle of "pangrattato" and a few fennel leaves. Light, fresh and delicious! Give it a try- you might just end up enjoying it!