Easy “Pea”sy Weeknight Dinner – Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Parmesan

January 8, 2011 § 5 Comments

Happy one week 2011! As I sit here writing this I’m watching the clock count down and feeling as excited for the year as I did a week ago on New Years Day. I don’t know what it is but it seems that everyone is truly happy about this year – there’s definitely something in the air (and lots of commotion on Facebook). It’s been a wonderful week for me, a perfect week in fact, very productive, quality time with my husband, family, and friends, and I’m full of anticipation for all the year has to bring. It’s funny how something as “little” as finally sitting down to start a blog can really inspire you. My mind is whirling with recipes I want to test – causing my mouth to water for delicious new flavors and creations. But the truth is, I have a very full-time job, which doesn’t always leave me the time I’m looking for at night to put a meal on the table worthy of my mother’s teachings.

That’s where this pasta comes in – my easy “pea”sy all-time absolute favorite go-to meal. Its simplicity of several bold flavors is what makes it so easy and a sure win each and every time. We eat this meal regularly as it’s a quick supper and I always, always, have the ingredients on hand. Crispy, smokey bacon, al dente pasta, a soft bite of bright green sweet peas, salty parmesan, and spicy fresh cracked pepper all wrapped in the deliciousness of good old olive oil. Mmmm… if only I had some leftovers right now…

I’ve been making variations of this dish for over 10 years now. It was inspired by a pasta at a local restaurant my family used to go to for special occasions. I would look forward to that meal for days – enjoying an amazing Italian feast with a glass of sparkling San Pelligrino was all I needed – it was heaven. The dinner always began with a famous buccatini. Buccatini is like a very thick, hollow, spaghetti. Their version was served al dente with prosciutto, peas, mushrooms and parmesan. The result was this amazing, smokey, salty, pasta. I haven’t had that dish in probably 8 years but I can still taste it.

I distinctly remember starting to create my version of this pasta in my last year of high school. In fact, I remember that I’d make it as many as several times a week. It was a very simple version that I still make to this day of just pasta, peas, olive oil, lots of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. That variation is actually the first meal I ever made my husband back when we were first dating in college – I guess it was good enough to stick around!

Over the years I’ve tried many variations adding garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, cream, tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc., and while they are all good, this one is absolutely my favorite. I encourage you to try it as is, and then experiment with new ingredients to see what your favorite combination is. This pasta doesn’t have hard-set directions. Use as much bacon and peas as you want – you can’t go wrong. Just ensure you flavor it well with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Most of the flavor comes from the salt and pepper so don’t be scared to add liberally. I like to add and taste several times until I get it right – you’ll feel like you’re adding a lot, but believe me, it needs it.

For the pasta – I usually cook with a whole wheat or whole grain pasta for extra protein but white pasta works beautifully here as well. You can use any shape of pasta you like. A new trick I’ve found is freezing my bacon. I love bacon but since it’s just me and my husband we never make it through the pack before it goes bad. I put it in my freezer and it lasts several months and is actually much easier to cut when frozen. If you’ve ever cut up fresh bacon you know this can be quite tricky. I like to cut the bacon perpendicular to the strips so all I need is several cuts and the bacon just breaks up in the pan perfectly.

Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Cut as much bacon as you want – I like to cut three pieces about ½ inch thick (this equates to about 2-3 strips of bacon). Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon leaving bacon grease in the pan – I know you health nuts will be eager to remove it but believe me its worth it!

Add the desired amount of frozen peas. We love peas so I add enough to coat my pan – about 2 cups. Mix peas in bacon grease and cook until heated through. Add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, about 1-2 tablespoons depending on amount of peas, just enough so that the peas are shiny and coated. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and mix. Reduce heat to medium-low.

When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the peas and mix for a few minutes to the pasta absorbs all the flavors.

Serve with reserved crispy bacon and freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. If you manage to have leftovers, this pasta is equally delicious the next day, but sadly (or fortunately) we never have leftovers when I make this.

Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Parmesan
Yields 2 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 package pasta of your choice
2-3 strips bacon cut into small pieces
2 cups frozen peas
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
parmesan cheese to serve

Directions:

1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and cook pasta al dente according to package instructions
2. Meanwhile heat a pan over medium heat. Cut 2-3 strips of bacon, or desired amount, into small bite-size pieces and add to heated pan. Cook until crisp and remove with slotted spoon, reserving bacon grease in pan.
3. Add 2 cups peas to pan and olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook until heated through. Reduce heat to medium low.
4. Drain pasta and add to pan with peas, mixing, and let it sit for a few minutes, absorbing flavors. Taste and season as needed with more salt and pepper.
5. To serve pasta, top with crispy bacon and fresh parmesan.

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