Frittata con fave, pecorino, e pancetta

While I'd always been familiar with classic American food pairings, having grown up in the U.S – peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and mint, bacon and eggs, apples and cheddar -- I learned a whole new set when I moved to Italy. Here are just a few of them: I learned that soft and chewy and gloriously olive-oily pizza bianca is happiest when accompanied by a slice or two of mortadella, that the flavor of sweet summery melon is highlighted when there is a ribbon of prosciutto nearby, that slices of juicy red tomato are best eaten interspersed with creamy mild mozzarella di bufala, and that a pizza in Italy is best washed down with not wine, but beer. When I moved to Rome, I also learned about the classic, seasonal, and ever so delicious pairing that is fave e pecorino.

It seems like a bit of an odd one, but the best combinations are (watermelon and feta! caramel and sea salt! radicchio and gorgonzola! etc etc). Fresh, light, spring-y green fave pair wonderfully with richer, more boldly-flavored Pecorino, so much so that on May 1 -- a national holiday here in Italy -- it's tradition to eat fave and Pecorino (preferably accompanied by a glass of white wine, on a picnic blanket somewhere). But the more the merrier, right?! Fave and pecorino, a dream team in themselves, are not so exclusive -- they're sort of like the (rare) nice girls in middle school who would make room for you at their lunch table, or pick you to be on their team in gym class. They're amiable, agreeable, happy to take on other ingredients, something I learned last year when I made this pasta with guanciale, fave, and Pecorino. This time around, I've discovered that they are also quite happy when incorporated into a frittata.

So! In case you're not familiar -- the frittata is Italy's answer to the Spanish tortilla or the French omelette, and is a wondrous thing. It's quick, versatile, and filling, accepting of any ingredients you have on hand, a hero at dinnertime, and one of those dishes (along with pasta con tonno and spaghetti alla carbonara) that my Italian friends seem to all know how to make. It can be as fancy or as humble as you want, depending on what you have on hand (half an onion and a little cheese will still make you a lovely frittata, as will one with sausage, mushrooms, and gruyere). Today's recipe errs more on the side of elaborate -- we've got crisp, "I-make-everything-tastier" pancetta, thin slices of sweet yellow onion, and the aforementioned dream team of fresh, vibrant fave + lots of flavorful, sharp Pecorino. The eggs here cook up nice and fluffy and sunshine-colored with a deeply golden, slightly crisp bottom where they've hit the pan, and the whole thing, all together, is splendidly delicious. Take note: though here in Italy frittate are eaten as a light lunch or dinner, this would also be perfectly at home at your brunch table, if I don't say so myself. Yummm.

A couple of notes: If you cant find fava beans where you are, you can substitute fresh peas (cooked for a minute or so in boiling water first). You could also substitute parmesan for the pecorino if you'd like, though you wouldn't be following the Spring-y fave/pecorino tradition here. Remember to go easy on the salt here as the cheese and pancetta are already salty themselves. I use the stove-to-oven method for the frittata as I prefer not to bother with flipping it, but if you'd like you can flip these over (use a spatula) and cook the whole thing on the stove only. Finally, a frittata is delicious either room temperature or cold as well as warm out of the oven. The leftovers here reheated quite nicely for a few minutes in the oven the next day.

Looking for more Spring-y recipes? I've got this Pasta with Pecorino, Guanciale, and Fava Beans, this Panzanella Primaverile, this Asparagus with Burrata and Gremolata, this Frittata di Spaghetti e asparagi, this Torta Pasqualina, and these Carciofi alla giudia. If it's another frittata you're after, I've got this Frittata with Spinach, Potatoes, and Gruyere.


6 large eggs
2.5 ounces (70 grams) pancetta, finely chopped
A heaping cup (150 grams) shelled fava beans
A scant 1 cup (100 grams) freshly grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put a pot of water on to boil for the fava beans. Next, in a small frying pan, put a bit of olive oil (just enough so the pancetta doesn't stick) and cook the pancetta until it begins to sizzle, then add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the pancetta is crisp and the onion is lightly browned and softened. Set aside to cool.

Add salt to the boiling water, and then add the fava beans. Let the beans cook for 10 minutes, then drain and place them into a bowl of cold water to preserve the color. Drain the beans again. When cool, remove their outer shell and discard (this is pretty easy once the beans are cooked). Set the re-shelled beans aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs. Stir in the onion, pancetta, fava beans, and pecorino, a couple of grinds of black pepper, and the teeniest bit of salt (pancetta and pecorino are already quite salty) and stir to combine. Pour the egg mixture in to a lightly olive oiled oven proof pan. Let the mixture cook over medium heat until set on the bottom (this will only take a few minutes).
Once the bottom of the frittata is set, transfer it to the preheated oven. Let the frittata cook until set on the top and golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly and then dig in. Serves 4. 


  1. Looks fantastic Francesca! I wish I could get my hands on fave here in Houston, but no luck. Guess I need to come to Rome next spring! ;)

  2. Hey you!! In fact I've heard that getting fave in the U.S is tough!! I'd say fresh peas are a good substitute in the meantime, and for the future: a trip to Rome!!!