Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strozzapreti With Peas & Pancetta Cream Sauce

This recipe is inspired by, or shall I say the result of, a few different situations. Firstly, I learned not too long ago that some pasta is shaped the way it is for specific reasons. For example, pasta shells have a cavity that holds juices or sauce differently than a spaghetti. I came across this strozzapreti in a local Italian deli and thought with it's twisty slits that it would be perfect for hoarding a delicious creamy sauce. If you can't find strozzapreti easily where you live, don't worry… You could equally use penne, rotini or my other favorite for this dish, farfalle aka bow tie pasta. It's just as delicious with other pasta shapes, but when I saw the unique strozzapreti in its pretty package with its different shape, I just couldn't resist it. It's also interesting to know that according to Wikipedia, strozzapreti is Italian for priests choker or priests strangler. 

Aside from finding a fun new pasta to try, this also stems from a few other dishes I've recently enjoyed. A new Italian restaurant in my neighborhood serves a Tagliatelle with Peas & Pancetta dish that I had once and absolutely loved. Sadly, I've been back to that restaurant several times and it hasn't reappeared on the menu since that first encounter - this is a place that changes its menu like the weather - and I've craved it ever since. Recreating something similar to this dish has become a bit of an obsession for me. Additionally, I fell in love with all of the recipes featuring my new favorite combo of peas and pancetta in Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson. This recipe is what I like to think of the perfect marriage of both with a new twist and it's becoming my favorite thing to cook for either lunch or dinner!

You don't need much to be able to make this dish, although I will say that a shallow Le Creuset casserole is perfect for cooking the sauce. However, if you don't own a Le Creuset casserole, not to worry… A non-stick frying pan or wok with a lid will work just fine. As a last resort, you could even make do with a large, non-stick saucepan with a lid… Additionally, it may seem odd or wasteful to use lemon zest, but no lemon juice, however this is what gives it a slightly lemony taste without being sour. As they say, "waste not, want not" so I usually juice the lemon anyway and keep the juice in the fridge for pouring over smoked salmon at breakfast in the morning or using for other recipes later in the week. Finally, if you can't find garlic oil, just substitute regular olive oil, not extra-virgin. 

The recipe below serves 1 hungry person as a meal or two people as a side dish because I make this most often as lunch for just myself, however to make it for more people, just multiply the ingredients.


100g strozzapreti (or other short pasta of your choice)
125g pancetta
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup frozen Petit Pois or other sweet peas
100ml double cream
2 to 3 tablespoons garlic oil (or regular olive oil)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
3 tablespoons white Vermouth or other white wine (white cooking wine works too)
Salt to taste, plus more for the pasta water
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Drop of olive oil for pasta water

1. Put water for pasta on to boil with plenty of salt and a drop of regular olive oil. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to instructions on the packet, but be sure to check it a few minutes before it's meant to be done to get the consistency you prefer. Before straining the pasta, reserve a cup of the cooking water and set aside for later.

2. Heat the garlic oil in a shallow, heavy based pan or casserole with a lid on medium low. When the oil is hot, add the lemon zest and give a stir. 

3. Add the pancetta and cook until a dark, crispy bronze color. I may seem strange to cook the pink out of it, but this will create a gravy consistency later and give the pancetta more of a crispy bacon taste.

4. When the pancetta is lovely and brown, stir in the chili flakes first and then the frozen peas. Stir the peas until they aren't coated in the oil and don't look frosty anymore.

5. Stand back as you pour in the Vermouth or white wine. Let it bubbly up nicely as you give it a quick stir, then cover the peas and pancetta with plenty of water. Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Then reduce the heat to med-low and cover, continuing to cook for about 10 minutes.

6. After 10 minutes, remove the lid and increase the heat to high. Boil until reduced to a light gravy-like substance, stirring occasionally (about another 15 minutes or so). When it's reduced completely, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and stir, continuing to cook on high heat for another 5 minutes or until fully reduced.

7. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the double cream, stirring constantly until the cream combines with the bacony juices in the pan and coats all of the peas and pancetta.

8. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and keep stirring until all of the mixture is combined and remove from heat immediately.

9. Either in the pan, or if you're making a larger quantity, transfer to a warm bowl, toss the pasta in the sauce until all is coated. If the mixture is too dry, add some more of the pasta cooking water a little at a time (about a teaspoon) until it's wet enough to cover each piece of pasta.

10. Salt and pepper to taste and if you like, garnish with a little chopped fresh mint, parsley or both.

Have you ever cooked with strozzapreti before? I'd love to know what sauce you serve with this unique pasta shape!

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