Thursday, September 02, 2010

Farfalle with Broad Beans, Bacon, Red Onion & Thyme

Not strictly a Sunday roast this, but it's one of my own inventions that's good enough for sharing I think. I tend to be an inventive cook ... but as with all inventions, not everything is worth sharing, believe me! I wanted to go for a bit of a photo recipe this time around, as I'm aware I can be a bit lax with measurements - hopefully the photos make up for it.

I first knocked this together a few years back when we started to grow our own broad beans. It was one of those classic "what can I cook with these leftovers" dishes, when all I had was a ton of fresh broad beans, a few bits and pieces in the fridge, and plenty of summer sunshine. It's simplicity itself to make - the secret of all good Italian food, but relies on excellent quality ingredients in the correct proportions - that's the other secret to Italian cooking, and the one that most people tend to overlook.

Fresh broad beans, ready for cooking
Now in truth I'm not brilliant at measuring ingredients - unless I'm baking I tend to play it very much by eye/nose/whatever. I can't give exact proportions here, but hopefully the pictures will give you a clear idea of just how much of everything you'll need if you wanted to try and replicate this dish.


  • Farfalle pasta (the little bows)
  • Broad beans (cooked and shelled unless very fresh)
  • Streaky bacon (I prefer mine unsmoked, but that's a matter of personal preference)
  • Red onion, thiny sliced
  • Fresh thyme
  • Lemon zest
  • A little white wine (optional really)
  • Creme fraiche

Some of the ingredients

First off prepare the thyme and lemon. I love thyme - well, I love all herbs to be honest! - so am very generous, but add as much as you think you'd like to eat. The lemon zest should be done lengthways to give a little texture as well as flavour, and the thyme simply needs to be pulled off the woody stems.

Lemon Zest and Thyme
Now the broad beans. Cook the de-podded beans by boiling in salted water for about 8-10 minutes or so, depending how large they are, and then leaving them to cool slightly. You're trying to get a very slight al dente type bean, doesn't matter if some are firm as they will be reheated again. Slip off the outer skin once cool, which should come off nice and easily, and put the lustrous green bean halves to one side.

Cooking broad beans - two different varieties here, hence the different colours
The cooked beans. These have been added to the Thyme/Lemon mix as this will all be added back in to the pan at the same time
Next get some onion cooking. You're looking for quite a sweet finish, so the onions are going to need to cook in a mixture of olive oil and butter for at least 15 minutes in order to sweeten. Whilst they're cooking put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Onions cooking, these are about half way there
Now the bacon. Once the onions are cooked take them out of the pan, and add in the bacon chopped into strips. No need for extra oil or butter as the fat from the bacon itself will soon cook down and do the job for you. Crispier the better in my book, but cook to taste. When the bacon is about half way there, you'll need to get the pasta in the water. Different farfalle's will take different lengths of time, but for an average farfalle cooking time of 10 minutes now is the right time.

Farfalle pasta
Once the bacon is crispy, it's time for the rest of the ingredients to go back in. Add back in the onions and the broad bean, thyme and lemon mixture.

Bacon, onion, broad beans, thyme and lemon back in the pan
Once this comes back to temperature deglaze with a splash of white wine if you like, cook off some of the liquid, and then add in a good dollop or two of creme fraiche.

Adding in creme fraiche
You should end up with quite a loose sauce, ready to dress the pasta with.

All the sauce ingredients mixed together
Season well with salt & pepper, and add the pasta to the sauce (or should you add the sauce to the pasta? I'm never convinced by either camp if I'm honest) and you're done.

Pasta just added to the sauce, ready to mix
Top tip for pasta here - when you're draining it, always try and keep a little of the water from the pasta back in the pan. You can then use this liquid to loosen the sauce if you're accidentally let either the sauce or the cooked pasta get a little too dry.

Once you're ready either serve the past straight, or you can add a little more thyme and some parmesan for that finishing touch. I also like a couple of Bibanesi on the side, but that's not something you can easily get in the UK

The finished dish
A scrumptious light summer lunch, full of seasonal freshness and healthy to boot. What more could you want?

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