This stew, though eaten throughout the year, is most popular in Sardinia in the winter, when wild fennel is at its peak. Giovanna used smoked pig's feet and pork belly from the pig she and her family had raised. Smoked ham hocks, easier to find in the United States, may be substituted.
- 3 1⁄2 cups dried fava beans
- 1 large handful wild or cultivated fennel fronds
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 skinless fresh pork belly, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2"-thick slices
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1⁄2 head savoy cabbage, cored, leaves separated and halved crosswise
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak favas and fennel fronds together in a large bowl of water for 4 hours.
Meanwhile, put ham hocks into a medium pot and cover with cold water. Boil over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes, then push to one side of the pot. Add pork belly to pot and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add ham hocks, cover pot, and cook for 10 minutes more.
Drain favas and fennel fronds. Add favas, fennel fronds, garlic, cabbage leaves, and 7 cups cold water to pot with pork belly and ham hocks. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender and favas are soft, 2-2 1⁄2 hours.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer ham hocks to a bowl and set aside until just cool enough to handle. Remove meat from hocks, discarding skin and bones, and return meat to pot. Season stew with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer stew to a serving dish and serve warm.