Pancetta, Pea, and Other Stuff Pasta

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A little over a month ago I was out to dinner at this quaint little Italian restaurant, La Rustica. While everything we ate was very tasty, what really stood out (besides the tiramisu) was a pasta special, which had roasted red peppers, baby peas, caramelized onion, crispy bits of pancetta, finely chopped mushrooms, spaghetti, and a ton of other stuff, all of which were coated in a delicate sauce.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was in need of a quick dinner. La Rustica’s pasta left an impression and when I made a quick stop at the store, I bought many of the ingredients I remembered being included in that dish. The original was divine, but my tweaks and reinterpretation (and decision to just throw everything into a pot rather than roast some, saute others, etc) made for one exceptional pasta dish.

  • 1/3 lb pancetta, chopped into a small dice
  • 8 mushrooms (because 8 is my favorite number), chopped into a small dice
  • 2 shallots, chopped into a small dice
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into a small dice
  • A few cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • A few stems of thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup plus a few additional splashes of chicken stock or white wine
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 heaping cup baby peas (I used frozen, because they were cheap and convenient)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb pasta (I think a spaghetti or linguini would work best, I used whole wheat spaghetti)

Sauté pancetta, mushrooms, shallot, and red pepper in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, until vegetables have caramelized and pancetta has crisped up.

Add garlic and thyme and cook for a few more minutes.

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Meanwhile, prepare pasta per package instructions (be sure to generously salt the boiling water and cook pasta to al dente, or a minute less than instructed).

Pour in wine or chicken stock and be sure to scrape up any bits of veggies or pancetta stuck to the pan. Continue cooking over medium heat until some of the liquid has evaporated.

Mix in peas and cream. When the sauce is lightly bubbling, taste for seasoning. I used pancetta made by Salumi (a Seattle institution that makes some of my favorite charcuterie), which is incredibly well seasoned. I find it superior to other pancetta as it has a ton of flavor and is full of herbs and salt. As a result, I used very little salt and pepper as the pancetta provided such a punch of flavor.

At this point I strained my pasta, dumped it into the pan of sauce and coated each strand. You’ll want to let the pasta sit in the sauce for a minute or so to ensure it soaks up the flavor of the sauce.

I served the pasta with a small handful of Parmesan cheese and a piece of baguette (and yeah, I just ripped a piece of bread off the loaf seeing as this wasn’t a fancy party that required slicing bread or other nonsense).

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