Fava Bean Soup with Lentils for St Joseph’s Day

@ Homemade Italian Cooking

Today people still celebrate St Joseph’s Day by setting up tables in Catholic churches, the so-called St. Joseph Tables (Tavole di San Giuseppe) and sharing a soup made with fava beans and Neapolitan pastry, known as Zeppole di San Giuseppe. Because March 19 falls in the Lent period, no meat is allowed to be eaten. Therefore, fava beans served as a good nutritional alternative. It is said that fava beans grow during drought periods  when nothing else would. So when anyone leaves the celebration — besides carrying a bag of leftovers — they take along at least one “lucky fava bean” for the next year.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 large whole onion diced
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound dry baby green lentils
  • 3 carrots finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery finely diced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup Chianti wine optional
  • 2 cups water as needed to cover
  • 3 14 ounce cans fava beans
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Parmesan rind optional if you have one


  1. Drain, rinse and shell the canned fava beans. Pinch the end and squeeze out the bean. Toss the skins.
  2. In a large dutch oven on the the stove, add the olive oil, red & black peppers, garlic, onion and saute until translucent. Add the carrot, celery, thyme and cook for another 10 minutes until the onion starts to caramelize.
  3. Add the tomato paste and mix until incorporated.
  4. Stir in lentils, vegetable stock, tomatoes,wine (if using), oregano, and bay leaf. Add more water to cover all the ingredients if needed. Bring to a slow boil.
  5. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, sitting occasionally. Add the fava beans and more water if needed to the desired thinness or thickness of the broth. Add the parmesan rind if you have it. Cook another 10-15 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the fava beans warmed through. Toss out bay leaf before serving.
  6. Serve with toasted garlic bread and grated parmesan cheese.
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