If you’re ever in Italy in the right season, be sure to order pasta di piselli when you have an opportunity. This is one of those deceptively simple dishes that Italians are capable of elevating to something sublime.
And if you can’t swing the plane fare, you can come up with a good approximation at home. The pea season is sadly short — we’re already at the tail end of it. My web hunting for the dish I remembered from Italy proved surprisingly fruitless, so I made up the recipe below. Response so far has been good.
Note: this is not vegetarian, but you can of course skip the pancetta.
1 lb English peas (sugar snaps can also work, but make sure they’re big)
2 oz pancetta (roughly a 1/4 inch slice), cut into strips or chunks
1 shallot, minced
A few sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
3/4 lb pasta (Orecchiette work well. Ditto for fusilli or farfalle or even fettuccine.)
2 Tb butter
- Shell the peas. This is the only time-consuming step. Everything else can be done in less time than it takes to cook the pasta.
- Place the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
- Brown the pancetta in some olive oil in a pan set over medium heat.
- Add the butter to the pan. When the foaming subsides, add the minced shallots and cook until translucent.
- Add the peas, thyme, and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook a few minutes, until peas are just tender. Remove from the heat.
- When the pasta is al dente, return the pan to the heat. Drain the pasta, toss it quickly in the pan to coat in the sauce, and add grated parmesan. Serve immediately with more cheese on the side for sprinkling.
- If you live in New York, you can shell the peas on the subway ride home. People will think you’re crazy — crazy like a fox!
- Cherries are also in season now. Dessert suggestion: cherries and a bar of dark chocolate.