This past weekend’s visit to the local Farmer’s Market included bringing home a big bag of English peas. Have you ever eaten fresh peas? Waaaaaaaaaay better than the canned or frozen stuff. I managed to grow a few vines of peas last year, but after shelling them, I only ended up with a cup or so in total. Not much. And that was with multiple harvests. After each shelling session, I just kept storing each tiny batch in the freezer until the growing season was over. Then one day I took out my measly little bag of green goodies, boiled them in a bit of water for a couple minutes, tossed them with some butter, and I was in love. There is no going back now. I just planted more peas for this spring and hope to have more success.
In the meantime, the explosion of spring goodies at the Farmer’s Market happened this past weekend, including piles and piles of English peas–big fat ones. I stocked up on a gigantic bag of peas, not minding that I would have to shell them all. Now, what in the world was I going to make with all these chubby little green pearls? It is times like this when life throws a recipe at me just as I need it. Skimming through Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a recipe using ricotta, which I had on hand, and peas fell open. Perfect!
So I whipped this up. Very easy. Makes a fantastic quick meal, perfect for a weeknight after a long day at work. The dish tastes light and flavorful. It contains chewy pasta, pungency from the parmesan-reggiano cheese, softness and sweetness from the peas, and a smoothness from the little bit of butter and the ricotta. Oh, and my favorite part: a salty chew from the bacon. Quite the mix of flavors, isn’t it? Yet all so easy to throw together.
I used conchiglie pasta, which I’ve usually seen as shell shaped. This particular bag I bought, though, was more like curved hollow tubes, and after mixing everything together, I found the peas hiding out in the tubes : ) I can imagine that little kids would find that amusing. Okay, so I found it amusing, and it just made eating this potpourri of flavors even more fun.
Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Ricotta Sauce
- 1 lb. fresh, young peas, unshelled weight OR 1/2 of a 10-ounce package of tiny frozen peas, thawed (I measured 5 ounces of freshly shelled peas, which equalled about 1 cup of peas)
- 1/4 lb. lean slab bacon (I used 3 1/2 slices to equal 4 ounces)
- 1/4 pound fresh ricotta
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus additional for garnishing
- black pepper
- 1 pound pasta (conchiglie, fusilli, or rigatoni)
- Prepare pasta. Begin by boiling 4 quarts of water. When it reaches a boil, add 1 1/2 tbsp. salt (this helps flavor the pasta). When it reaches a full, rolling boil again, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
- In the meantime, add the ricotta to a large bowl, breaking it up with a fork. Add the butter (I cut the butter into small pieces). Set aside.
- Place peas in a small saucepan; pour in enough water to just cover them. Bring to a gentle boil for a couple of minutes, then drain and set aside.
- Cut the bacon into small bite-sized pieces. Using a small saucepan, cook over medium heat until browned but not crisp. Pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat. Add the peas, stirring to coat. Cook at medium heat for 2 minutes, but time this to finish just before you drain the pasta.
- Drain pasta and immediately put into the bowl with the ricotta, tossing until well mixed (my pasta & sauce looked a bit dry and I was wishing I had saved some of the pasta water to help smooth out the ricotta sauce). Add the peas and bacon, again tossing until well mixed.
- Add the grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and toss again until well mixed. Serve immediately.
SOURCE: Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking