Viola Buitoni and the spring vegetables

Viola Buitoni was holding a cooking class in the kitchen at the Italian Consulate on top of Pacific Heights last week, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was invited. Le delize di primavera (springtime delights) were on the menu. Viola is a wonderful cook and teacher. I learned some great recipes and kitchen tips as we celebrated spring vegetables with simple and quick preparations.

We set out some fava beans, thinly sliced pancetta and a young Tuscan pecorino cheese so we could nibble as we began our work.

As we munched, I put the sliced rustic Acme bread in the oven to toast and made a fava puree. We prepared two more spreads in about 10 minutes – sheep ricotta flavored with orange zest, nutmeg, fresh majoram and drizzled with EVOO and a lardo spread.

Our tummies satisfied for now we made pasta with fave, green garlic and guanciale. A torta with ricotta, baby chard and prosciutto was put in the oven. Peas sauteed with spring onion and prosciutto and a frittata with fava and borage leaves were cooked on top of the stove as the torta baked. For dessert I made a cooked crema topped with cherries cooked in their own liquid.

Here’s my adaptation of Viola’s pasta recipe for you to enjoy. It serves 4-6 people. The sauce can me made in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito!

Pasta Fave, Aglione e Guanciale con Ricotta


  • 1 pound or 500 grams fresh or dry egg pasta, fettucine or tagliatelle work well
  • 4 heads green garlic, cleaned well and sliced thinly
  • 2 pounds fave, unshelled
  • 1/4 pound guanciale cut into matchsticks (or pancetta if you cannot get guanciale)
  • 1 lemon, rind grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped finely
  • EVOO
  • 1 cup ricotta secca (or ricotta salata if you cannot get secca)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large pot bring salted water to a boil.
  2. Shell, blanch and peel the fave.
  3. In a pan over medium-high heat render the guanciale in a bit of EVOO until it takes a light golden-brown color.
  4. Pour out excess fat and turn the heat down to medium-low.
  5. Add the garlic, fava, lemon zest and marjoram and cook gently until the garlic is softened and a bit opaque. Lower the heat to low.
  6. Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until very al dente.
  7. With a spider add the pasta to the sauce. Add about a 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water and a splash of EVOO.
  8. Transfer the pasta onto a platter and sprinkle with the recotta secca. (Grate the ricotta secca on the larger grate on a box grater.)
  9. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon.