February 21, 2024 | Rome, Italy


By |2018-03-21T18:49:08+01:00April 27th, 2012|"In Provincia"|
Pasta con fave e pesto. Photos by Ruurd de Jong.

ometime I ask myself, “Why we can’t just be normal.” Here we are in Italy in the middle of a serious financial crisis. The few lucky ones with money stay put and don’t even bother booking holidays. I know this first hand. I’ve never seen so few travelers in a decade as a rural innkeeper.

So what do we do in our Umbrian B&B? Lay back? Wait? No. We decide to install a new roof. That would be a normal roof, right? The kind you put over your head so it doesn’t rain in the kitchen.

No, not us. Of course not. We opted for a sophisticated solar energy roof.

We’ve now been busy for more than six moths building a ventilated roof that includes photovoltaic and thermal panels. For now on, our farmhouse will be solar powered. The sun will produce all hot water and electricity for our B&B guests and us.

It’s scary and beautiful at the same time.

Scary because it’s cost us our savings; beautiful because the shiny black panels mean we’ll be running on renewable energy from now on. We’ve also installed a huge wood furnace for the times when the sun just isn’t enough.

Sure, we could have waited. The whole world seems to be waiting. Waiting is the solution to some.

We take another view. We consider hope as part of the solution, doing something positive and sustainable for ourselves, and for others.

My husband calls me a rabbit. He says I’m scared of just about anything. Still, we’ve done it, and I’ve never celebrated spring, and a very green spring it is, with so much hope.

So let’s eat.

Pasta con fave e pesto (Serves 2)


  • 200 grams (7 ounces) dry egg tagliolini (very narrow fettuccine).

  • 1 cup whole fresh broad beans (yields 6 tablespoons of shelled broad beans).

  • 1 small garlic clove, very finely minced.

  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.

For pesto alla Genovese

  • One bunch of fresh basil leaves, about 4 tablespoons.

  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts.

  • 1 small garlic clove.

  • 1 tablespoon EVO oil.


— Blanch broad beans in boiling hot water for 5 minutes or until some of the skins start to split. Drain and refresh under cold water. Remove shells, and put aside.

— For the pesto, blitz all ingredients in a bowl using an immersion blender. If you’re a purist (I’m not), use a mortar and pestle. Make the pesto at the last possible moment before using it in the sauce. This way it doesn’t oxidize, losing flavor. While making the pesto, cook the tagliolini in plenty of salted boiling water according to package instructions.

— In a pan large enough to hold all the pasta — a wok is ideal — sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broad beans and cook briefly, to infuse them with the garlic oil. Remove from heat and add the pesto.

— Drain the pasta reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta into the pan that holds the sauce. Turn on the heat and quickly stir so the sauce is partly absorbed by the pasta. Add some pasta water. Serve immediately with Parmesan or pecorino cheese on the side.

About the Author:

Letizia Mattiacci wrote the "In Provincia" column from 2011 through 2019.