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Pancetta & Peas Creamy Penne

Photo Credit: Ostranitsa Stanislav/Shutterstock

There’s always that one meal that no matter how busy your day has been, you can count on it to be quick and easy, filling and delicious. For me, it tends to be a simple pasta dish — more specifically, pancetta and peas with penne in a creamy sauce. 

Aside from copious amounts of ice cream, I always make sure to have frozen spring peas and diced pancetta stocked in my freezer. I tend to buy these in bulk since they freeze so well and are easy to add to any dish for a bit of color and flavor, but most commonly in my house  to make this quick and delicious dinner.

From start to finish this dish takes about 15 minutes to make and is just as easy to prepare for one person as it is for a crowd. I tend to eyeball the ingredients all the way through depending on how hungry I am or if I want to make enough to have leftovers. Pro tip: if you’re planning for leftovers, save the pasta water to add in when reheating. The starches in the water help to keep it extra creamy.

This pleasing pasta also makes for a great clean-out-the-fridge meal if you have veggies that are on their last legs. I’ve thrown in asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and even carrots.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry penne pasta (about 6 ounces)
  • 4 oz. pancetta, coarsely chopped (bacon works, too, but pancetta is really where the magic happens)
  • 1 shallot, chopped (onion will work here, too)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup milk (half and half or heavy cream work here)
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

In a saute pan, cook pancetta over medium-high heat until golden and crisp, usually about 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate leaving just a bit of the drippings in the pan. 

In the same pan with remaining drippings, saute shallots until softened, about 3 minutes. Add peas and garlic, continue to saute for 3 minutes. 

Add in milk and black pepper, bring to a slight simmer. Stir in Parmesan, pasta, and pancetta. Add some of the reserved pasta water to create a creamy consistency — if you go overboard, add one tablespoon of flour and work in until reaching desired creaminess. 

Season with freshly cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes for a little kick and give it one last stir to work it all in. Serve and top with additional cheese and/or fresh herbs.


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