Lemon Risotto With Sauteed Fresh Fava Beans

Although the ingredients are simple, I think of this as a luxury dish: fresh fava beans are a seasonal delicacy, and shelling this many rates as an act of culinary devotion. The risotto is aromatic with lemon zest and richly satisfying with the bright green new favas—a bowlful of spring.
April 04, 2016


By Anna Thomas


5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups peeled fresh green fava beans, from 1 lb. shelled beans (see note)
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
sea salt
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
8–9 cups light vegetable broth, diluted if salty 
2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for the table

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium sauté pan, add the garlic, and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the peeled fava beans and sauté them over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they color lightly. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, sprinkle the beans with a big pinch of sea salt, give them one more stir, and remove them from the heat. Set them aside as you prepare the rice.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan and stir the shallots in it over medium heat, with a dash of salt, until they are soft, 6 or 7 minutes. Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer, cover it, and keep it hot on the lowest flame. Be sure that your vegetable broth is not too strong or salty.

Add the rice to the shallots and stir over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir as it evaporates. Add 1 cup of the hot vegetable broth, lower the heat to a simmer, and stir as the broth is absorbed into the rice. Continue adding broth, about a cup at a time, stirring almost constantly. As each cup of broth is nearly absorbed, add the next cup and stir again, and so on until the rice is tender but firm and a creamy sauce has formed around it, 20 to 25 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the lemon zest, as well as two-thirds of the sautéed fava beans, reserving the rest for a garnish. Stir in the Parmigiano, and then, just before serving, add a final, generous ladleful of broth. Immediately spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and scatter a few reserved fava beans on top of each serving. Pass the olive oil carafe and the additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.

Serves 6 to 8 as a center-of-the-plate dish

A Seafood Variation . . .

Lemon risotto can be made with shrimp instead of fava beans, or along with them. Peel and devein about 1 pound of fresh shrimp, wash them, and have them ready as you begin to cook the risotto. When the rice has been cooking about 15 minutes, sauté the shrimp for a moment in some olive oil with a bit of garlic and a splash of white wine. Stir the shrimp into the risotto, or into part of it, just before serving. Or add a few sautéed shrimp on top of individual servings. The large Prawns Sautéed with Garlic (p. 349), which are left unpeeled, also make a good pairing.

About Those Fava Beans . . . 

The well-protected fava beans must first be taken out of their large pods; then the beans need to be peeled, one by one. It’s a bit of work, but not so much that it should stop you. I timed myself the last time I peeled a pound of shelled favas (about 3 cups beans in their jackets): 20 minutes. Not a tragedy. So bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the shelled favas. When the water simmers again, give them 2 to 3 minutes, depending on their size. Drain them, rinse briefly with cool water, and then slip off their skins while they are still warm. You’ll have a generous 2 cups when the beans are peeled. 

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