Friday, April 27, 2012

Orecchiette with Bacon and Peas

Pasta is wonderful meal by itself or as a side. And it's usually easy to prepare, not to mention inexpensive.

If you have children, they may just love this dish because of the pasta shape. "Orecchiette" means "little ears." It's the perfect shape for holding peas. Here, they are paired with a straightforward cheese sauce along with everyone's favorite, bacon. Traditionally, it would be pancetta. Leftover ham would work, too.

This is a forgiving recipe. If you have them on hand, use leeks or shallots. Any soft cheese will suffice, including Ricotta, even heavy cream. Cream cheese is what I had, so that's what I used. As always, just be sure to use a good Parmesan/Reggiano cheese. It's always the signature to any pasta dish.

Serves 1-3
  • 4-6 oz. orecchiette
  • 4-6 oz. bacon, chopped
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • Fresh thyme (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add pasta and return to the boil.

Rinse frozen peas under cold water to defrost. Drain and set aside until ready to use.

Add chopped bacon to a medium saucepan and fry just until it begins to turn color. You don't want it super crisp. Remove from pan to drain. Add a bit of butter/olive oil to the pan and add the onion. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and stir just until fragrant. If using, add a bit of thyme, just a few pinches.

Add the chicken stock and allow to simmer several minutes. Add the bacon and then the cream cheese. Taste for seasonings, adding more garlic if necessary, salt and pepper. Set aside. Add the peas.

Drain the pasta. Using a slotted spoon, begin transferring the pasta to the sauce in the pan, coating evenly. Some of the pasta will still be "wet" but that's okay. You want the "starchy" water to thicken the sauce. 

Grate fresh cheese over the mixture and taste for seasonings. 

Notes: I used 8 oz. of pasta but it was way too much. I also used the 4 oz. of bacon (four slices) but I felt it needed more. I added a splash of dry white wine along with the stock. If I had one, I would have grated a bit of lemon zest over the dish.