Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lima Beans, Pancetta, and Pecorino

Written by: Sarah Ubertaccio



Time to read 2 min

Fava beans (known as broad beans elsewhere) are a popular Roman legume, usually coming into season at the start of May. You’ll find these plump green beans cooked up in just about everything, from pasta and salads to soups and stews. Sometime’s they’re even served up raw as a snack, plated alongside chunks of Rome’s favorite salty cheese, Pecorino Romano.

Sadly, finding fresh fava beans in the United States is not so easy! Although not a perfect substitute, lima beans are one alternative that you can use to mimic the look and feel of le fave.

Note that both fava beans and lima beans have sweet, nutty flavor but fava beans tend to be less starchy than their lima counterparts. They also have a more complex flavor, sometimes with bitterness, almost tangy notes.

Here we’ve paired fresh spaghetti alla chitarra (aka tonnarelli) with a pancetta, scallion, and lima bean sauce. We like to puree half the lima beans in order to create a sauce that envelopes each spaghetti strand, helping the rest of the ingredients “stick” to the pasta better.

Can’t find fresh lima beans? Frozen are perfectly acceptable, just make sure they’re cooked all the way through before pureeing. You can also easily sub out the spaghetti alla chitarra for another fresh, long pasta like tagliatelle, tajarin, or pici. For help with making spaghetti alla chitarra, check out our guide and don’t miss our Chitarra Spaghetti Board

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lima Beans, Pancetta, and Pecorino

Prep time

15 minutes

Cook time

30 minutes




1 pound (450 grams) fresh  spaghetti alla chitarra
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 cup scallions (white part only), finely chopped
2 cups lima beans
⅔ cup pecorino romano, finely grated
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Special Equipment


Saute the pancetta and scallions together in a pan on medium-low heat until the scallions start to soften and the pancetta fat starts to render.

Meanwhile, cook the lima beans in a pot of salted water, boiling water until soft and tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the lima beans to the scallions and pancetta and cook them together on low heat, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the other half of the lima beans to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add one or two ladlefuls of the lima bean cooking water and puree together until smooth. Add the pureed lima beans to the scallion and pancetta mixture and stir together.

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the spaghetti to the sauce. Add in ½ cup of the pecorino, 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything together until the spaghetti is well coated.

Serve warm with grated pecorino romano on top.

Sarah Ubertaccio