Peas and Pancetta in a Flash

So, it had been one of those weeks. You know the kind. The kind where the baby, trying to make use of his limited vocabulary, hollers at his older brother in peak frustration, “Just…just…just go put your head in the potty!” and then storms out of the room, leaving the 10-year old to shrug his shoulders and mutter, “Good dis, pal…real good dis.”

The kind of week where in the middle of the costume store, not but 24-hours before the big day, you have to inform your eldest son that no, you weren’t kidding when you told him he couldn’t get the mask with the blood pumping through it because you find that there is something inherently wrong with it. “But, Mom, all my friends have that mask. It’s so cool.” “Well, then, I guess you’ll be something original.”

The kind of week where your daughter has seconds to spare if she’s going to make the bus and you have but seconds to spare to make it to your godforsaken annual doctor’s appointment and she flies down the stairs headed for the front door wearing a masterpiece of fashion know-how that clearly took hours to put together, and you can’t help it. You even try to stop yourself because it’s just so…so…textbook but somehow you hear yourself saying, “Wait a minute, sweetie. You can’t wear that to school. Your skirt is too short.” And she looks at you, aghast, and replies, “But, Mom, everyone wears skirts like this.” And you know that you have truly been anointed a mother when you hear yourself say to her in return, “Well, not you. Go change and make it quick.”

The kind of week that found your sweetie trying to save his favorite chair at three in the morning from the cat who sat poised on it ready to cough up not just a hairball but what appeared to be his entire innards

The kind of week where you begin to wonder if you are stuck in a remake of Groundhog Day since every time you look around you find yourself in your car. “Here I am driving.” “Here I am, still driving.” “Wasn’t I just driving?” “Gads, I’m gripping this steering wheel again.” “Somebody help me. I’m driving again.” “I’m driving again and this same dang song keeps playing every time I’m in here.” “Ahhrrrgh….somebody save me from this car!” And you find yourself wanting to pull over to the side of the road and huck the CD with the song that you used to love on it, but now can’t stand, into the bushes.

And then, without warning, you come upon it. This little bit of frozen time. Where the road behind you has slipped away beyond the bend and the road in front of you is hidden by the horizon and there you are, fully in the moment. All thoughts of masks and skirts and heads in potties and what’s for dinner disappear and you are taken aback by the way the sun filters through the leaves. The way the branches arch over the road so you and your car feel as though you’re slipping through an arbor. An arbor leading somewhere magical. And then, just as quickly as you came upon it, the moment is gone and your mind fills back up with the static humming of life’s busyness. But, in that moment, your mind was able to clear a tiny spot. A tiny spot to remind you to breathe, to slow down over the bumps and that Peas and Pancetta are good on a night when you are out of time.

Peas and Pancetta in a Flash
(Adapted from Farfelle with Peas and Pancetta, Gourmet, June 1999)
4 cups frozen petite peas 
2 tbls olive oil
¼ – 1/3 lb pancetta, diced
2 large shallots
1 lb dried bowtie (farfelle) pasta
salt and pepper, optional
freshly, grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large, pasta pot three fourths full with water and bring to a boil for peas and pasta.

Cook frozen peas in boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes, and with a slotted spoon transfer to a colander and spray with cold water to stop the cooking. Do Not drain the water from the pot.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil until hot but not smoking and cook pancetta in oil, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and edges are crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Now, at this point, I usually take my pancetta out of the skillet and drain it in a paper towel lined bowl. Then, I give the skillet a once over wipe with a paper towel, drizzle a little bit more olive oil in and then, add the pancetta back in along with my shallots. I do this because I’d rather cook with olive oil than bacon grease, but you could skip all of this and just add your shallots into the skillet when your pancetta is done cooking. Once, you’ve added your shallots, cook them, stirring occasionally, until just tender about 3-4 minutes.

While your pancetta is cooking you can return the water in pot to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Before you drain your cooked pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain pasta in colander and add it to your finished pancetta mixture with the peas, ¼ cup reserved pasta water and salt and pepper to taste. (I find that this recipe doesn’t need any added salt and pepper, but that’s just my preference.) Heat mixture over low heat, gently tossing (and adding more pasta water as needed if mixture becomes dry), until just heated through.

Serve pasta with your freshly, grated Parmesan cheese.

While I have made this recipe exactly as written before, some nights I don’t bother with the mixing it all together with the reserved pasta water that I forgot to reserve and I just have the troops scoop up their pasta and put the peas and pancetta on separately. On this particular night, I also happened to serve this dish with a cornucopia of fall fruit: persimmon, pomegranate, pears and apples. What did the children think of the persimmon you might ask? Not much.

Yield: Enough for a family of 5 with a bit leftover…perfect for a thermos in a lunchbox the next day.

All original text and photos copyright: Carrie Minns 2009


  1. Oh, this was soooo good. I enjoyed this delicious dish the night before the big football game. Thanks you Carrie and family,

  2. Mmmmmm. Think I'll make this as a celebratory dinner upon eldest's return from outdoor school and second's recovery from the (whisper)H1N1 … or "pancetta flu" … we'll also celebrate three's super support of both her big sisters. Glad I got to share in these stories, first hand … I'm still kind of laughing a lot at them.
    Thanks for the inspiration! xoxo

  3. Hopp Family of 4 says:

    You said it so well, as my eldest, at this very moment, is persisently asking to watch "Accidents Happen" on YouTube and my youngest is hanging on my leg, chanting his montra "Hawllo Mummmy", "mummy, HAWLLOooo".