What’s for dinner: Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Sweet Peas

carbonara tastefood

There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of pasta carbonara, the Roman answer to comfort food, with an egg-rich creamy cheesy sauce studded with crispy bacon and, in this recipe, sweet peas. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Puree

shrimp pea puree tastefood

~ Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Purée ~

Here’s a fresh twist on the classic shrimp cocktail. Rather than dipping poached shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce, how about dipping grilled shrimp in a garlicky pea purée?

I like to make this pea purée when sweet peas are in season. It’s an incredibly versatile condiment. Not only is the purée a perfect garnish to sweet and briny shrimp, it tastes great with other seafood such as scallops, salmon and halibut. It also makes a great topping for crostini, a dip for cruditées or steamed new potatoes.

Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Purée

If fresh peas are out of season, frozen peas may be substituted. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Purée:
2 cups fresh peas or 12 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Tabasco or hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar

1 pound medium (21/25) shrimp, peeled, tails intact, deveined

If using fresh peas, fill a medium saucepan halfway with water (do not add salt as this will toughen the peas) and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook until bright green in color and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining puree ingredients and process to blend. (If using frozen peas, skip the first step and add the peas with the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process to blend). If purée is too thick, add more olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Thread shrimp on skewers. Grill over high heat with the lid closed until just cooked through, turning once, 2 to 4 minutes.

Serve the shrimp warm with the pea purée for dipping, or spoon dollops of the pea puree over the shrimp.

This is a great beat-the-heat recipe for the summer.  If you like this you might also enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Smoked Salmon Salad Tartines
Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Syrup
Bloody Mary Gazpacho

Spring Peas and Shoots with Pancetta and Orecchiette

pea shoots pasta tastefoodSpring Peas and Shoots with Pancetta and Orecchiette

I hope you like peas, because I have a few pea recipes coming your way. The first is this pasta recipe which I like to make when English peas first appear in the market in March. It’s the essence of early spring, a season which brings a mixed message of cool rain and gentle sunshine. Crispy pancetta swathed in cream and cheese provides winter warmth, while sweet peas and delicate pea tendrils add earthy fragility, an early hint of the garden awakening from its winter slumber. No worries if you can’t get your hands on pea tendrils, which are the wispy shoots of the snow pea plant. This dish is equally delicious simply with pancetta and peas. And for that matter, if you can’t get your hands on fresh peas, then frozen are just fine, too.

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

If you are using defrosted frozen peas, add to the sauce in the end to warm through. Serves 4.

1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cups fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add orecchiette and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta. Sauté until light golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add fresh peas (if using), garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Return pancetta to the pan. Add cream, stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until cream is slightly reduced and thickened, and peas are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. (If using defrosted frozen peas, add to the cream after it is reduced and thickened and simmer until peas are heated through). Remove from heat and add the orecchiette to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the pea shoots, the cheese, and mint and stir again. Serve immediately with additional cheese for garnish.

Adult Spaghettio’s: Anelletti with Bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

Adult Spaghettio’s: Anelletti with Bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

~ Anelletti, Bacon, Sweet Potato, Peas, Sage, Parmigiano ~

This recipe is a celebration of bacon. Not just any bacon, but a wedge of my own home-cured bacon: a wicked habit I developed after a year of making my own charcuterie courtesy of Charcutepalooza. Since then, I always have a stash of bacon on hand, portioned from a hefty slab I cure every few months.

Once again I found myself this week at the dinner hour when I hadn’t shopped and the refrigerator was bare. (How does this happen when I cook and write about food?)  In this situation, an easy improvised pasta dinner is on the menu. Naturally, I reached for a hunk of bacon, cubed and fried it, rendering a slick of fat. Normally I would discard the fat and proceed from there, but since it was my own bacon, I wasn’t ready to part with it, preferring to celebrate it somehow, so I dumped a chopped sweet potato unearthed from the vegetable bin into the pan, frying the potato until glistening and tender. Not quite finished, I gave a few semi-wilted sage leaves a reprieve (I said my refrigerator was empty) and fried them until crisp. Now I was ready to discard the bacon fat, all but a tablespoon, which I used to sauté a little garlic and and a handful of peas just long enough to release the garlic’s aroma and brighten the peas.  Then all of the ingredients, redolent with bacon, converged in a bowl with a wonderful pasta I discovered in my pantry, smuggled home from a long-ago trip to Italy. I call them adult spaghettio’s.  Continue Reading Anelletti with bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

Spring Pasta: Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

Spring Pasta: Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

I couldn’t resist the peas. This bowl of pasta is the essence of early spring, a season which brings a conflicting message of cold rain with gentle sunshine. Crispy pancetta swathed in cream and cheese provides winter warmth, while sweet peas and delicate pea tendrils add earthy fragility, an early hint from a garden awakening from its winter slumber. No worries if you can’t get your hands on pea tendrils, which are the wispy shoots of the snow pea plant. This dish is equally delicious simply with pancetta and peas. And for that matter, if you can’t get your hands on fresh peas, then frozen are just fine, too.

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots
Serves 4

1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cups fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add orecchiette and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta. Sauté until colored and lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add fresh peas (if using), garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Return pancetta to the pan. Add cream, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until cream is slightly reduced and thickened, and peas are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If using defrosted frozen peas, add to the cream after it is reduced and thickened and simmer until peas are heated through). Remove from heat and add the orecchiette to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the pea shoots, half of the cheese and mint and stir again. Serve immediately with additional cheese for garnish.

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas


~ Orecchiette, Roasted Cauliflower, Oven Dried Prosciutto, Peas, Parmigiano ~

This recipe might best be called the “Calm before the Storm.” Thanksgiving is looming with its promise of feasts, indulgences and lots of leftovers. In anticipation of the predictable holiday chaos and our subsequent food coma, I aim for a moment of zen and economy, creating simple and efficient meals, deliciously comforting while using lurkers in the refrigerator as inspiration and freeing up space for turkey-centric leftovers. In this case, I unearthed a head of cauliflower from the vegetable bin, patiently waiting (as crucifers are so inclined) to be put to use from last week’s farmers market splurge. A chunk of pancetta gamely joined in, skirting its banishment to the freezer, along with a bag of well frozen peas eager for a defrost. Suddenly, I had an easy and healthy dinner on hand with no whiff of leftovers, stuffing or cranberry sauce – that will come later.

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas
Serves 4.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut in 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
Salt
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack in oven until tender and bottoms are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to top rack and broil 2-3 minutes until tops are tinged brown. Remove from oven.
While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto in one layer on another baking sheet. Bake in same oven on middle rack until dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, peas and 1 teaspoon salt; toss to warm the peas. Add cauliflower, prosciutto and 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and additional cheese on the side.

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Morels, asparagus and peas team up in this quintessential springtime pasta dish. Earthy mushrooms marry well with astringent asparagus and sweet peas. Famously delicious in sauces, risottos and pasta, these ingredients require little else except a nap of cream and a sprinkling of cheese to bind them all together, resulting in an easy yet elegant seasonal meal.

Linguine with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans
Serves 4

1/2 ounce dried morel mushrooms or 1/4 pound fresh morels, cleaned, sliced
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1″ pieces
Salt
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy heavy cream
1/2 cup shelled sweet peas
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare morels:
If using dried morels, place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit 20 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze out any extra liquid.  Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add asparagus and blanch until crisp-tender and bright green without overcooking, 1 minute.  Remove with slotted spoon and refresh under cold water.  Set aside.
Add linguine to same pot and cook until al dente or firm to the bite according to package instructions; drain.
Heat olive oil and melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, morels and 1 teaspoon salt.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant and morels are tender, about 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock and cream.  Simmer until thickened and reduced by about half, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in peas and simmer until brightened and crisp tender, 1 minute. Stir in  the asparagus.  Add pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.  Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a generous spoonful of grated cheese for garnish.