Recently, while at the amazing Fairway Market in Harlem, I decided to pick up a small package of diced pancetta. For some reason, this little package was only a couple bucks and therefore could not be left in the store alone, uncooked — it had to be purchased and eaten.
Most of the time I think of pancetta, I think of simple Italian dishes that only have a couple ingredients. Part of that thinking was a recent episode of No Reservations which took place in Rome, a place I have never been. Several times he orders pasta dishes that are only about 5 ingredients and include pancetta. I know that my cooking is no match for these classic Roman dishes from Rome, but I decided to make a quick lunch that would still end up being delicious.
You may say that the addition of goat feta on top is blasphemous, but trust me, it melts and gives the pasta a nice creamy texture without making a cream sauce.
8-10 oz penne pasta, cooked according to box
4 oz pancetta, diced
6 oz frozen peas, placed in strainer and defrosted with warm water
2 shallots, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pancetta in a large skillet of medium heat. No oil is necessary, as you will use the fat from the pancetta to sweat the shallots. Once some fat begins to coat pan, add shallot and garlic. Cook until the pancetta begins to get crispy, about 10 minutes.
When pasta is cooked, should be around the same time the pancetta is cooked, drain, reserving at least 1/4 cup of pasta water (precious precious pasta water).
Reduce heat in pan to low. Add pasta to pan, along with peas and a touch of pasta water, enough to coat the give the sauce a touch of liquid (about 2 tablespoons, or a bit more). Toss and serve with goat cheese or grated Parmesan.