These fresh fava beans in tomato sauce with dill and garlic are a comforting and hearty plant-based meal inspired by Balkan and Mediterranean flavors.
On a recent walk we came across a Turkish grocer in another Amsterdam neighborhood adjacent to our own that had a ton of spring produce already in stock in early February.
I picked up a bunch of dark Lacinato kale that I used to make Tuscan Kale Soup with Fennel Sausage and Potatoes, fat plums that went into Tomato Burrata Salad with Orange and Balsamic Roast Plum, and a bunch of glossy rainbow chard that I used to make Rainbow Chard Mediterranean Tuna Salad Wraps.
While all that produce was beautiful, the pile of fresh fava beans with their pale waxy green color and sweet earth scent were what really caught my attention.
I prepared them in the Romanian style of preparing green beans: with tomato sauce, lots of fresh dill and garlic. This preparation is also reminiscent of Greek fasolakia, which is a similar idea of green beans in tomato sauce, often with potatoes.
You can adapt and make it your own by either using regular green beans or adding other vegetables like potatoes.
Fresh fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans): If you're fortunate enough to have fresh fava beans in season where you live then they are the perfect centerpiece of this recipe. If not then you can substitute green beans, sugar snap peas, runner beans etc.
Tomato puree: I used Mutti Polpa which in the Netherlands is a very fine pulp similar to tomato puree or passata, not finely chopped tomatoes as it's marketed in the US on Amazon. It doesn't really matter anyway - you can also use finely chopped canned tomatoes or even substitute 5-6 whole tomatoes, diced finely. If you substitute whole fresh tomatoes, adding a tablespoon or two or tomato paste (if you have it) will make up for some lost umami and depth.
Fresh dill: Fresh dill has an herbaceous sweetness that goes really well with green beans and tomato sauce.
Garlic: This dish is all about garlic so if you really like garlic, this is the place to go for it.
Olive oil: A little bit of olive oil is used to sauté the garlic and fava beans to give a bit more depth before simmering in the tomato puree.
Seasoning (smoked paprika, bay leaf, black pepper and salt): The seasoning is simple but packs a punch and is very complementary.
Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice brings brightness and an acidic counterpoint which balances the otherwise sweet flavor palate.
All you will need to make these fava beans in tomato sauce is large pot with a lid. I used my Le Creuset braiser which is pictured and is 3.3 liter / 3.5 quart. You will need a pot at least that large.
Overall this recipe is really simple. It's not an exact science and you can probably prepare it without really looking at the instructions but there are a few things you can do to really amp up the flavor.
In order to get some brighter flavor notes mixed in with the sweet deep notes you're going to stagger in the dill and garlic and only add the lemon juice at the end. This creates layers of flavor in the dill and garlic and keeps the acidity of the lemon to bring some contrast to the sweet smokiness of the dish.
Prepare the beans, dill and garlic
Prepare the fava beans by cutting off the ends. Some beans have a fibrous filament that runs along one or both sides. You can feel it as you cut off the ends. Keep pulling until it peels off.
Cut the stalks into smaller pieces (around 5 cm / 2.5 inch long). Don't forget to give the beans a good rinse - either before or after cutting. I chose after snice they were smaller and easier to soak in a bowl.
You also need to thoroughly wash the dill and then destem it and chop it up.
When it comes to destemming I take the lazy route and just cut the stems off the whole bunch. I'm not so bothered if some bigger stem pieces go into the dish since they will still add flavor and fiber. If you want a very refined dish then of course you can remove the whole stem and only leave the fine dill threads in.
Finally, peel and mash or grate the garlic so it's very fine.
Once the beans, dill and garlic are ready, you're ready to cook.
Start by sautéing half the garlic until just beginning to brown, then add the beans sear them to get a bit of brown but be sure the garlic doesn't burn or it can taste acrid.
Finally, add in the seasoning and tomato puree plus the water. I like to use the tomato puree can (or tetra pack etc.) to pour in the water so I make sure I get every last bit of tomato out of it.
Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes over medium-low heat or until the beans (the ones inside the stalks) are fully tender and cooked through.
Then just turn off the heat and add the rest of the garlic and all of the dill. Mix in well and taste to see if you want to adjust the seasoning.
Since they're flavorful on their own, I suggest serving these fava beans in tomato sauce with a simple starch like white rice or mashed potatoes.
You can also jazz it up a bit and introduce a cool counterpoint flavor by serving with Dill Yogurt Sauce with Garlic - a great pairing.
Looking for more mealtime inspiration? Maybe you'll like one of these:
Fava Beans in Tomato Sauce with Garlic & Dill
- 500 grams fresh broad beans about a lb
- 400 grams tomato puree
- 500 ml water 2 cups
- 2 cups fresh dill finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
- juice of one lemon
- Cut the ends off the green beans, remove the fibrous threads, and cut them into smaller pieces. Chop up the dill, peel and mash the garlic.
- Heat the oil over medium heat and add half the garlic. Sauté until beginning to brown then add the green beans and sauté to brown lightly (if garlic begins to burn then skip to next step).
- Add the tomato puree, water and seasonings. Mix to combine well then cover and simmer over medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until the beans are fully cooked through.
- Turn off heat and add in all the dill, the lemon juice and the rest of the garlic. Mix to incorporate.
- Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference.