The photo above was one of my favourite daily neighbourhood scenes I would see in Testaccio, the fifth quarter where I was living for the month of April. One of the realizations of my time abroad was understanding what my European friends would talk about when they said they missed the produce of their country. I rolled my eyes at them and said go the farmer’s market, which will still be my answer minus the eye rolling. But it really is true, the overall quality of produce that I found in Italy at just neighbourhood corner markets was so good. Every night I would watch the delivery truck arrive in my neighbourhood, bringing in the sweet strawberries of spring, crisp asparagus, the last of the oranges from the winter season still with all their stems and leaves attached and cases and cases of fresh fava beans.
While I didn’t fulfill my dream after reading and hearing about the course of fava beans served at local trattoria’s of fresh whole fava beans, a hunk of young pecorino and a knife, to have a bites of both. I did learn a new way to make a favourite Sicilian soup of mine called macco or maccu in Sicilian. This soup can be found more or less all year round but is best in the winter/spring when the favas are fresh and wild fennel can be found all over the sprawling countryside. My talented friend Mario came to visit me in Rome at the end of my month there and we threw a Sicilian dinner party at the Latteria Studio. Mario is a person who’s knowledge on food and everything surrounding it is endless and he has a palate like very other few people, incredibly particular and able to pin point so many different things. While I was there to host the dinner, I felt I learnt so much from him that night as did our guests. I’ve included a couple other pictures below of some of our other courses we served. This is Mario’s recipe for macco and I am sure this will not be the last recipe I am to share with you that I have learnt from him.
Macco a la Mario
2 kilos fresh fava beans
1 medium sized white onion, small dice
1 litre vegetable stock
Aromatic fennel fronds, (wild fennel is what you are looking for which can be often difficult to find in North America, I planted bronze fennel in my garden this year which seems to be a good substitute)
This may seem like a painstakingly ridicolous process for such a small yield but I promise you it is worth it.
Peel beans out their fuzzy outer shell and then pinch the bean out of it’s second skin.
Once all your beans have been shucked, in a medium sized pot, heat a good amount of olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until it begins to soften and start to become translucent. Season with salt. Add the fava beans, cook for a couple minutes with the onion, add vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and let cook just until beans are tender, approximately five minutes. The key to this soup’s success is freshness, so minimal cooking is essential, cooking just things get tender in order to reserve all the freshness. Remove pot from heat. Puree with a handful of fennel fronds, adjust seasonings accordingly.
Serve with good bread and if you like some sweet/pepperiness pink peppercorns on top.