Macco di fave: history of the Sicilian dish and wine pairing

March is the moment where in the vineyard, among the rows of vines, the green manure is buried into the soil.
This agricultural practice naturally adds organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, in line with the requirements of organic farming.
The crop used in the vineyards of Baglio Diar is the field bean, a leguminous species particularly suitable for clayey soils that already have a good quantity of organic matter available.

More common than the field bean (Vicia faba minor) is the broad bean (Vicia faba maior), which is its ‘cousin’ in terms of variety. The two belong in fact to the same botanical species. The difference between them lies in the size of the seed and, consequently, in the use.
As the name itself suggests, the broad bean produces larger and flatter seeds, which are therefore suitable for human consumption.
On the other hand, the seeds of the field bean (which translates into ‘favino’ in Italian, meaning ‘small fava bean’) are smaller therefore they work well for the green manure technique as the quantity of seed required for sowing is lower.

Fava beans in Italy are cultivated mainly in the Southern regions and islands, such as Sicily, where in the past this legume was the main source of protein for the local populations, so much so that it earned the nickname of ‘meat of the poor’.
As with the favino or field bean, with spring coming up also comes the season of fresh broad beans, which will soon begin to populate the local markets to be used in several local recipes. When their seasonality comes to an end, dried broad beans remain available for the rest of the year.

The most famous Sicilian recipe featuring broad beans, either fresh or dried, is undoubtedly macco. Macco di fave, or maccu in the local dialect, is a creamy and wholesome soup, flavored with wild fennel and, if desired, enriched with vegetables or split up pasta as the tradition dictates.
Although it is prepared all throughout Sicily, albeit with small variations on the recipe, macco is considered a typical dish of the municipality of Raffadali, in the province of Agrigento, where people in the past prepared it to celebrate the end of the harvest.

The preparation of this recipe is simple but not immediate; in fact, the dish owes its velvety consistency to the soaking of the legumes on the night before cooking them. This step is especially important when using dried legumes to soften them. It is precisely its distinctive consistency that gives the dish its name: macco derives from the Latin maccare meaning ‘to reduce to a mush’.
After soaking, the fava beans are cooked on a base of soffritto (finely chopped carrot, onion and celery) and herbs as desired. The aromatic herb that must never be missed is wild fennel, thinly chopped and added in generously after cooking.
As a final step before the broad beans are completely undone, vegetables and pasta can be added in too, or even croutons to finish everything off.

The wild fennel gives an intense fragrance to this dish, characterizing it with its fresh aniseed notes.

To go along with the delicacy of the macco we recommend the pairing with Diornu Baglio Diar, a blunt and sincere wine made from organic Inzolia (85%) and Chardonnay (15%) grapes.
Diornu is a fresh and mineral wine that offers delicate hints of apple to the nose together with notes of fennel, mint and jasmine.
The lovely salinity of Diornu enhances the sweet taste of the fava beans, and its vibrant acidity refreshes up the palate at every sip. The subtle aromaticity of the fennel pairs well with the delicate herbaceous scents of the wine, and together they leave a pleasant cleanliness on the palate that leads to the next spoonful.

Macco di fave is typically a dish of the peasant tradition: not pretentious, yet tasty and filling. Although of humble origins, it is a homey and genuine recipe that lends itself well to being celebrated alongside an elegant wine that is just as representative of the territory as our Diornu.