This bowl of pasta is the essence of early spring, a time of the season that brings a conflicting message of gentle sunshine and gray days with cool rain. Crispy pancetta swathed in cream and cheese provides winter warmth, while sweet peas and delicate pea tendrils add freshness and earthy fragility, an early hint from a garden awakening from its winter slumber.
No worries if you can’t get your hands on pea tendrils, which are the wispy shoots of the snow pea plant. This dish is equally delicious simply with pancetta and peas. And while you may be tempted to use fresh peas, frozen peas are best for this dish. Save the fresh peas for munching fresh from the pod.
Spring Pea Pasta
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 5
1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup (packed) finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish, optional
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and saute until beginning to crisp and the fat renders, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cream, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the cream is slightly reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in the peas and pancetta and simmer until heated through. Add the pasta and cheese and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pea shoots. Serve warm garnished with the lemon zest.
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