Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pasta with peas and bacon: A suggestion.

Remember than one-new-recipe-a-week thing I'm doing this year? It' part of my goals. Often I end up baking something or making a recipe I've seen somewhere in the blogosphere or elsewhere on the Internet. And while that is fine, my original idea behind this was to pull out one of my way too many cookbooks and actually cook something from it. Might have to tweak this next year and assign a cookbook per week or so. Anyhow.

This time I actually made something from a good, old-fashioned cookbook. No flimsy printout, no screen, no phone in my kitchen. Just a book. I pulled out Diane Seed's Top 100 Pasta Sauces. Because I felt like having some pasta. Hm. I always feel like having some pasta. And I didn't go grocery shopping for a week, so that sort of limited my options a little.

Looking through the book I came across a recipe for pasta with peas. Peas? I always have frozen peas. Let's see, what else.... bacon? Check. (Don't ask me why, I'm afraid there is no good answer for that). Parmesan? Check! Lots! And that was it. Easy peasy. (sorry) So here's my version:

Pasta with peas and bacon

500g / 1 lb pasta (I used Penne Rigate but pretty much anything will work)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
150g / 5 oz bacon

2 tablespoons butter
3 onions
3 cups frozen peas
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese
100g / 4 oz Parmesan cheese

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large sautee pan. Cut bacon into small pieces and add to pan. Meanwhile, finely chop onions. Cook bacon until crisp, remove from pan and set aside. Add butter and remaining olive oil to the pan, add onions and cook until onions are very tender, about five minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta. Add peas to the onions, season with salt and pepper. Be careful with the salt as the bacon will also add saltiness to the sauce. Add some pasta water a tablespoon at a time and wait until absorbed. Add Mascarpone and stir to melt. Drain pasta. Add as much pasta as you like to the sauce, ass bacon and check seasoning. Grate the parmesan cheese and serve on the side.

Adapted from Seed, Diane: The Top 100 Pasta Sauces. "Pasta e Piselli con la Pancetta"

If you know me at all, you know that I have a hard time following recipes. This one is no exception. It said to cook the bacon with the onions, add peas and pasta and keep cooking. Sounds like soft, mushy bacon to me. But I wanted nice, crisp, crunchy bacon. So I started with the bacon, cooked until crisp, set it aside and then put the onions in the same pan to sautee in the bacon fat.

Also, the original recipe suggests (in my book recipes are just that: suggestions) you undercook the pasta, then add it to the sauce with some pasta water, cover and finish cooking. Nice idea. I'll try that someday. Someday when I don't have a picky toddler. Until then, I prefer to cook my pasta al dente, drain, reserve some plain pasta for my toddler-plan-B and add the rest to whatever sauce I am making. I don't know about your house, but at my house this has prevented quite a few screaming fits at the dinner table...

I also reduced the amount of peas - limited by what was left in my freezer. I still thought it was plenty of peas. The original recipe calls for 4 cups. I used something between 2 and 3 cups. Honestly, I didn't measure. I just threw the rest of the package into the sauce. I also didn't take any pictures of the process. It was dark outside. So what you see in these photos are the leftovers I had for lunch on Friday. Yeah, I'm that professional.

But my favorite change occured towards the end, looking at the onion and pea mixture. Hmmmm.... Something is missing here.... Mascarpone! There's some mascarpone cheese left in the fridge! That never hurts, now does it? Actually, it's wonderful. Creamy. And it makes this nice spring dish much more ready for fall. Yum.

So go ahead, use my version, use the original version or feel free to change it around. You know, it's just a suggestion after all.

Have a great week,

PS: I made my first batches of the Spekulatiuslikör today. And since it's a very foggy, chilly day and from the two batches I made there was this small cup left over, I added it to our hot cocoa this afternoon. With whipped cream on top. Forgot to take a picture. But it is sooooo good.

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