Oh, how I love fresh butter beans, or lima beans, or baby lima beans. The Southern culinary jury seems to be in slight disagreement as to what makes a baby lima bean a butter bean and a butter bean a lima bean. Some say it’s the way you cook the bean that makes it buttery. Others say it’s an interchangeable term. Either way I don’t particularly care, in fact, they’re called runner beans in the UK just to add to the confusion. Thing is, they’re good when they’re fresh and these were fresh. I picked them up from a wonderful roadside farmer’s market in Cayce, SC. I decided to take the traditional idea of cooking them with a ham hock, but dressed it up using pancetta and turned it into a main course rather than a side dish (just forget the pasta and turn it back into a side dish if you want!). And for the record, I think the taste of the bean is decidedly buttery so in my book, that’s why they’re called butter beans!
1 lb fresh butter beans, shelled and picked through
1 lb fettuccini
2 large shallots, sliced thin
32 oz chicken stock
4oz diced pancetta
8 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Red pepper flakes
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Cook beans and half the shallots in stock over medium heat in a large saucepan for 15-20 minutes until tender (not mushy) in side. Drain beans and reserve cooking liquid, set aside. In the same saucepan, sauté pancetta and remaining shallots, and red pepper flakes in a little olive oil until the pancetta is crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove and set aside. Return cooking liquid to pan, bring to boil add fettuccini and cook until al dente. Lower head, add beans and pancetta – heat through, sprinkle cheese, parsley and lemon peel over pasta, stir to combine and serve.