Peas, Pancetta, Penne (and Pink)

I’ve already had this dish twice this spring – and I’ll probably have it at least once more. Out of season, use a handful of frozen peas. And if you’d rather leave the meat out, that works, too. I only use the equivalent of a couple slices of bacon, though, so split amongst two or three servings, the guilt factor’s pretty low.

Peas add color–and a bit of snap–to basic pasta carbonara.

Pasta carbonara with fresh spring peas

  • a couple-inch hunk of pancetta, guanciale, prosciutto, or plain old bacon, cut into 1-inch sticks
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1/2 pound dried pasta
  • 1 garlic scape (or a clove or two of garlic), minced
  • 1 egg (use two if you want a richer “sauce”)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, plus some for sprinkling
  • freshly ground pepper
  • flat-leaf parsley (optional)

The hardest thing about carbonara, I’ve found, is juggling the timing. Ideally, the pasta’s done cooking just as the bacon crisps, so that you can combine those two “hot” items in a single pan or bowl and then let their residual heat warm the egg to a silky, glossy finish.

Peas and pancetta
You don’t need much bacon–just an inch or two.

Get a large pot of pasta water on right away. While that’s coming to a boil, prep the meat and the garlic. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl, stir in the grated cheese, add a few grinds of pepper, and set that aside.

Once the water’s boiling, in a separate, large pan, start cooking the bacon over medium heat. Wait a few minutes, then add both the pasta and the peas to the water.

You’ve now got two burners going: a pot (with the peas and pasta), and a pan (with the bacon).

Cook the peas and pasta al dente. When the bacon’s crisp, add the garlic. Cook for just a minute or two (you want it softened and aromatic, not necessarily crunchy). Turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta and peas, and add them, together, to the bacon pan. Toss to coat. Now add the egg-cheese mixture, and toss again. Serve immediately, dressed with additional cheese and a bit of parsley, if you like. Yields two large or four smallish servings.

Pink to drink

My favorite wine pairing with this has always been pink. Really, just about any dry rosé will do. Corte Gardoni Bardolino Chiaretto, a vibrant, berry-scented rosato from near Verona is probably what I drink most often. Recently, though, I popped open the Rosé California Tablewine from the Ojai Vineyard. Blended from Rhône varietals planted in the high hills above Santa Barbara, the Ojai has plenty of zippy acidity to cut through the creamy bacon and cheese. It was such a hit with the dish that I bought another bottle the next day, just so I’d have one cold the next time inspiration strikes.

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