A 20-minute wonder dinner.
This pasta with pancetta and peas recipe makes a rustic, easy dinner that comes together quickly and tastes insanely satisfying. Adapted from the great Marcella Hazan.
The late, great Italian home cook and cookbook author Marcella Hazan may be best known for her butter-infused marinara and for her bolognese. But this simple recipe for creamy pasta with pancetta, peas, and ricotta deserves a place in the pantheon of her greatest hits.
Make This a Bacon and Peas Pasta as Necessary
Feel free to substitute plain, thick-cut bacon and make this a bacon and peas pasta recipe if you cannot source pancetta. Cut the bacon into small pieces before pan frying.
Either way, you’re about to have a great dinner.
Who Was Marcella Hazan?
Marcella Hazan was an Italian immigrant and doctor of biology and natural sciences who moved to this country and accidentally wound up one of America’s leading authorities on Italian home cooking.
Marcella Hazan arrived in the United States in 1955 to find an American foodscape heavy on bland, processed food and virtually devoid of the authentic, diverse Italian cooking she knew from home.
According to her obituary in the New York Times:
The culture shock nearly crushed her. She was appalled by canned peas, hamburgers and coffee she once described as tasting no better than the water she used to wash out her own coffeepot at home. At her first Thanksgiving meal, she nearly gagged on the cranberry sauce.
Undeterred by both a physical handicap and with no knowledge of cooking, Marcella set about teaching herself to cook from an Italian cookbook. She threw herself further into Italian cooking during trips back home to Italy.
Eventually, Marcella began offering cooking lessons from her apartment in New York City. Her reputation as a cook and educator grew. By the end of her life, she had published three successful cookbooks, each translated into English by her husband.
Why This Pasta With Pancetta and Peas Recipe Is So Good
This recipe for pasta with pancetta and peas works for three reasons:
- It takes 20 minutes start to finish,
- The combination of salty pancetta, sweet peas, and mild ricotta is a perfect combination of flavors, and
- Did I mention it takes 20 minutes, start to finish?
This pasta tastes creamy without having any cream in it. The ricotta turns creamy smooth when combined with hot pasta.
Pasta With Pancetta and Peas: Recipe Notes
This dish moves along very quickly, so have your mise en place (your tools, bowls, and prepped ingredients) set up before you begin. Here are the steps:
- Get the water boiling for the pasta.
- While the pasta boils, cook the pancetta in a pan. Add the peas and cook for a minute more.
- Then, add the drained pasta to a mixing bowl with the ricotta and butter, add the pancetta and peas, some pecorino-Romano, and serve.
That’s it! As always, be sure to salt your pasta water very well. It should taste salty like the sea.
And use the pasta water! Keep a bit of extra pasta water on hand while you fold the pasta into the cheese and butter, in case the mixture looks too dry. You probably will not need it, but having some pasta water around is always a good idea.
Love this bacon and pea pasta recipe? Here are more creamy pasta recipes you’ll love:
- Pumpkin Pasta With Prosciutto and Sage
- Creamy Smoked Salmon Pasta
- Sausage + Butternut Squash Lasagna Roll-Ups
Pasta With Pancetta, Peas + Ricotta
- 1 pound short pasta, such a rigatoni, ziti, mafaldine, or shells
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 pound fresh or frozen peas
- 1/4 pound fresh, whole milk ricotta (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1/3 cup grated pecorino-Romano cheese
- salt and fresh pepper
- Cook the pasta in well-salted boiling water until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until lightly brown and the fat has rendered, about 5 or 6 minutes. Pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the bacon grease and return to the heat.
- If using frozen peas, thaw and drain. Add the peas and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the ricotta and butter to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water. Add the pasta to the butter and ricotta and stir until well combined. Add the warm bacon and peas. Toss. Add the pecorino-Romano and mix. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Serve hot.