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Italian inspired peas and pancetta with fresh thyme recipe

Italian inspired peas and pancetta with fresh thyme recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Side dish
  • Vegetable side dishes

An Italian side dish special. Delicious served alongside roast dinners or other meat dishes.

Andalucia, Spain

6 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 60g (2 oz) pancetta (or unsmoked streaky bacon), chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 450g (1 lb) peas, frozen and defrosted
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves only
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:15min ›Ready in:30min

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a low medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté for about 3 minutes until browned but not crisp.
  2. Add garlic and onion and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for a further 4 minutes or so until onions have softened a bit. Stir in the peas, wine, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or so until peas are tender and liquid reduced somewhat. Serve immediately.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(29)

Reviews in English (21)

by naples34102

No ho-hum peas these. These are peas all dressed up pretty. Onion, pancetta, fresh thyme and white wine (and I couldn’t help adding a bit of fresh minced garlic) - what a great, flavorful combination of ingredients! Happy to be the first reviewer and give this recipe two thumbs up.-25 Nov 2014

by Howard

We made this dish as a side to a nice Chicken Dish. The Peas were a hit, a real gourmet side dish for sure! Easy Peasy (Pun Intended) Thanks Don!-17 Apr 2015

by Ms Jean

Nice change from the your ordinary peas. The thyme really works well here, and I also added some garlic. In a pinch, I'm sure bacon would be a good sub for the pancetta.-16 Feb 2015

Homemade Pancetta

This homemade pancetta is unsmoked bacon or pork belly that’s cured with salt, sugar, pepper, juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg, and thyme. It’s an ingredient in many Italian pasta dishes such as carbonara and as a substitute for guanciale in all’Amatriciana and can be hard to find.

Adapted from Michael Ruhlman | Charcuterie | W. W. Norton & Company, 2005

Homemade pancetta is sorta like Italian bacon. It’s pork belly cured with salt and seasonings which is then rolled into a log and hung to dry for a couple weeks rather than being smoked. It’s typically thinly sliced or diced and then sautéed to add complexity to other dishes.

The traditional process of curing and drying pancetta takes about 3 weeks but the timing varies depending on whom you ask. You could also choose not to roll it and use it as is, treating it as you would fresh bacon. [Editor’s Note: We’ve got ample tricks and techniques to share by folks who’ve made their own pancetta, both on the making of it and the using of it, in the comments beneath this recipe. Go on and take a look before embarking on making your own pancetta.]–Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

What To Do With Pancetta

Marcella Hazan, in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, notes that pancetta’s “savory-sweet unsmoked flavor has no wholly satisfactory substitute.” Truth. Chunks of homemade pancetta can be added to stews, beans, and soups. The classic Roman dish spaghetti alla carbonara is made with sauteed pancetta and eggs. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts are superb when sautéed with pancetta. Hazan suggests sautéing it with spring peas (a traditional preparation) or braising Boston lettuce with it.

Pasta and Peas With Pancetta

This classic dish adds a lovely, salty, pork flavor to the pasta dish. To make it, just brown pancetta (or bacon) in a non-stick pan with 1 Tsp. olive oil per person. Once the pancetta turns golden brown, add the peas. Let the peas and pancetta (or bacon) cook well, stirring and turning the pancetta over from time to time. Once cooked, switch off the heat, but cover with a lid to keep it warm while the (short) pasta cooks in boiling salted water. Drain the pasta al dente and mix with the peas and pancetta. Serve with ground black pepper.

Pasta with Sweet Pea Sauce & Pancetta

How many times in our youth did we hear our mothers say “Eat your peas”? How many times did we say this to our children? Well this week’s post, PASTA WITH SWEET PEA SAUCE & PANCETTA,makes all the fear and loathing disappear. Serve this one to your household pea-phobes, and I guarantee they won’t need coaxing. This is one dish that is difficult to stop eating and is so lovely to present, with its vivid green sauce which reminds us all of the garden.

What makes this dish so different? The sauce in this dish brings to the table all the nutritional value we expect from green peas: antioxidants Vitamin C and Vitamin E along with the mineral Zinc. So what? The difference here is that you never know you are eating your peas. Instead, your pasta is dressed with the most beautiful and flavorful sweet green pea puree seasoned with onions, garlic, pancetta,and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The piece de resistance in this dish is the pancetta which flavors the sauce, and then is removed and reserved to be sprinkled on top of the finished pasta at the very end. This gives it the final level of flavor without which it would not make your taste buds go “whoa” when it hits. The sweetness of the peas coupled with the savory nature of the pancetta is sure to hit your crazy button. This dish will provoke the sounds of “what the—” when they take the first bite.

A little history: There is an old Tuscan side dish made with sweet peas called “Piselli All’Olio” – which includes the use of pancetta, onion and even a little sugar. Usually fresh peas are used. Sounds good –but then we’d still have to look at the peas and well – you know – peas are just peas. So why not take this old Tuscan side and make it a sauce that is so beautiful in color and so sweet so as to be almost irresistible? Well – that’s what I was thinking. So here it is!

This is an easy dish to make and is so delicious –you’ll have trouble backing away from the table. So why wait?

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Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes


1 lb Penne Pasta or Fusilli Pugliese – make according to package directions – reserving a couple of spoons of pasta water

2 c. frozen peas – cooked & drained ( if you have fresh peas – all the better – boil them in milk until tender)

1/4 lb pancetta – chopped (Pancetta is Italian bacon – uncured – and can be found at most grocery story deli counters)

1 Large sweet onion – chopped

2 Fresh Garlic Cloves – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

Kosher Salt & Fresh Pepper to taste

1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Grana Padano cheese

1/2 c. Whole milk – warmed (2nd)


Cook pasta according to package directions and reserve a couple of large tablespoons of pasta water in case you need to add moisture towards the end.

Cook your pancetta in the olive oil in a large pot or large saute pan until crisp.

Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and reserve to add at the end.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the same pan and saute until tender – about 5 minutes.

Add the cooked peas to the pan and cook about 2 minutes, stirring to coat the peas completely.

Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Add the 1/2 c. warm milk to the puree and blend.

Taste for seasoning and add some Kosher Salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Transfer the puree back to the saute pan and add the ricotta and the grated cheese.

Mix together, add the remaining warm milk, and warm over medium heat for just a couple of minutes until heated through.

Add the pasta water if needed. You can also add a little more warm milk to get it to the saucy consistency that you like.

Add the butter and mix in.

Taste again for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to your taste.

Sprinkle the reserved crisp pancetta over the top of the pasta and serve.

Serve Pasta With Sweet Pea Sauce & Pancetta with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if anyone cares to add it. Either a crisp Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc would help you to enjoy this beautiful dish even more. You just won’t believe how delicious this dish is!


Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.


Risi E Bisi (Italian Rice and Peas)

Risi e Bisi (rice and peas) is a classic, comfort food style Italian recipe ready in about 30 minutes!

  • Author:Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 – 6 1 x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: simmer
  • Cuisine: Vegan, Italian


  • 8 – 10 cups low-sodium vegetable broth OR water (or a combo)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or ¼ cup water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced or 1 medium onion or 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 cups (1 lb.) Arborio rice (Carnaroli or Vialone Nano works too)
  • 4 cups (or 2 10oz. packages) peas, fresh or frozen
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped and loosely packed
  • mineral salt + pepper, to taste
  • ¼ – &frac13 cup nutritional yeast, or to taste (optional) , for topping (not shown)


Warm broth: In a medium saucepan, place the broth/water and bay leaves, bring to a gentle simmer and keep broth warm.

Saute: In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rice, toss until rice is nicely coated, about 3 minutes.

Slowly add liquids: Add in warm broth, one 1 cup at a time, the stock should be bubbly. Stir often allowing the broth to be just absorbed. Add in another 1 cup of broth, repeat until 6 cups have been used. Add in peas, and remaining stock and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another 15 minutes or so, or until the rice is al dente, tender but chewy. The whole process should be about 25 – 30 minutes.

Add Parsley: Once done, the rice and peas should be a little soupy. Remove from heat, stir in the optional nutritional yeast and parsley. Season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper.

Serve topped with a nice dusting of almond parmesan and freshly cracked pepper.

Less Hands-On Method:

  • After sauteing the leeks and rice as above.
  • Add at least 7 – 8 cups broth, peas, bay leaves, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 – 30 minutes until rice is tender.
  • Remove from heat add in parsley. Let set a few minutes and serve as desired.

Store: Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 – 6 days in a covered container. To store longer, freeze in freezer safe containers for up to 2 – 3 months. Let thaw before reheating.


Finished photos in the post reflect using 8 cups of water, add the remaining 2 cups of water for a soupier risi e bisi.

If you were thinking about subbing quinoa for the rice, go ahead, it’s delicious (this is actually my preferred grain, I love everything about it…but then this dish isn’t called Risi E Bisi). Top with Almond Parmesan and you’re good to go. Truly wonderful!

How make with quinoa:

  • In large pot, heat oil and saute leeks, about five minutes. Add 2 cups rinsed quinoa and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add 7 cups broth and bay leaves, bring to a boil. Add in peas, do not stir, cover and simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes. Test quinoa for tenderness by tasting.
  • Turn off heat, stir in optional nutritional yeast, and let set for about 10 – 15 minutes until broth is mostly absorbed. It will thicken upon standing, add more warm broth as needed for desired soupiness. Remove bay leaves. Toss in parsley, taste for seasoning, and serve.

This method with the quinoa will leave you with wonderful leftovers. Quinoa holds up well and reheats beautifully the next day.

Did you make this recipe?

Updated: Risi e Bisi was originally published in May 2013. It has been retested and updated with new photos and helpful tips in February 2020. Recipe has stayed the same and is still delicious!

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Pancetta is cured pork belly, the Italian equivalent of bacon. Unlike American bacon, however, pancetta is cured with a variety of herbs, spices, and garlic, and is left unsmoked. Pancetta is usually rolled and tied in a cylindrical shape, then hung to dry. Some versions, such as the variety made in Florence, are left flat. Our pancetta recipe is the rolled kind, and it’s amazing when prepared with our Pasta Carbonara with Peas. If you’re visually inclined, see our illustrated step-by-step guide.

What to buy: Pork belly is the same as fresh bacon. You can order it from a good butcher or buy it online from Niman Ranch. A whole fresh pork belly with the skin on weighs around 11 pounds, of which you’ll need half (a 5-1/2-pound slab) to make 1 pancetta. If you like, you can ask your butcher to remove the skin for you, making the total prep time minimal.

Curing salt, also known as pink salt or saltpeter, contains 6.25 percent sodium nitrite. It is colored pink so as not to be confused with regular salt. Curing salt is available at Butcher & Packer.

We like to use kosher salt in our recipes. It’s especially important to use kosher salt here to ensure that your quantity is correct. We prefer Diamond Crystal brand, available in most grocery stores.

Special equipment: In addition to your chef’s knife, you’ll also need a boning knife to remove the skin.

Be sure to have a spool of cotton butcher’s twine for tying and hanging your pancetta.

We found that giant storage bags, like these jumbo 2-gallon bags by Ziploc, were perfect for holding the pancetta during the curing process.

Game plan: Find a cool place to hang your pancetta, away from windows and direct sunlight. And of course make sure you allow enough time for the curing and hanging processes.

Crispy chicken topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella. Cheesy polenta or savory risotto that warms the soul with each bite. Long noodles like spaghetti or linguine tossed with fatty bacon and eggs or fresh tomatoes and basil. These are the makings of classic Italian and Italian-American recipes that everyone knows and loves. Some of these elemental dishes&mdashlike lasagna or homemade pasta&mdashcan be time-consuming, which is where these quick Italian-inspired recipes come in. When you're short on time but don't want to compromise on flavor, turn to these dishes.

Start with a spectacular seafood staple: Martha's Spaghetti alle Vongole. Spaghetti is tossed in a sauce made with homemade roasted-garlic butter, crushed red-pepper flakes, dry white wine, clam juice, and small clams. The dish is topped with lots of freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and dinner is served. A few Italian side dishes are also quick and easy favorites&mdashmake our Basic Polenta, which is made with coarse-ground polenta meal, unsalted butter, dried bay leaves, freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano, and plenty of salt and pepper. Try it in our Parmesan Pork with Polenta and Asparagus or serve a hearty ladle of chili and roasted vegetables over the polenta for a satisfying winter meal. Another dish that can serve as either a side dish or the main event is risotto&mdashin just under one hour, you can create a rich, creamy bowl of arborio rice with lemon and parsley, saffron, or mushroom and herbs.

Of course, every good meal ends on a sweet note. While homemade gelato or tiramisu can be time-consuming, one quick Italian-inspired recipe that we love is Cannoli Dip. This fun and totally genius take on the classic handheld dessert features a bowl of creamy dip topped with mini semisweet chocolate chips. Serve it alongside homemade cannoli chips made from wonton wrappers for a treat that will surely disappear in a flash.

Farfalle Carbonara with Pancetta and Peas

And thank God for the rain that we’ve received before things dry out in the summer here in the Southeastern region of the U.S.A.!

I really appreciate gentle rain showers and thought they were a delightful inspiration to create a recipe. Well, spring peas seemed to be popping up on my brain, so I put my culinary thinking cap on to satisfy this feeling! Since I’ve got a pantry full of pasta that I need to use plus some cream and peas already in the frig, all I needed for a delicious, fresh spring pasta recipe was some pancetta.

Not a problem, since I was easily able to pick some freshly sliced pancetta up on the way home from the office today.

To increase the smiles on our faces over this recipe: I decided t0 really increase the amount of pancetta for this recipe! I’ve got a husband who prefers meat over pasta, so I met him half way by adding more pancetta.

It was wonderful!

I added cream, because I figured, “why not?”.

Next, I added the classic Carbonara herb of Italian Parsley.

Finally, I needed to add some extra freshly-cracked sea/kosher salt and black pepper at the end when tasting the final results (even though I don’t need salt for my health). This recipe certainly required it for enhanced flavor!

I also recommend that the next time I make this to saute’ 2 or 3 cloves of garlic in the pancetta fat after the pancetta is cooked. This time I drained the fat, since I certainly don’t need it in my nutrition. But it would be nice to complete this recipe with more golden garlic blended in. I think I would also use half Pecorina-Romano and half Parmigiano cheeses the next time, instead of all Parmigiano cheese alone, just for a flavor that I prefer.

Secrets to this peas recipe (how to cook frozen peas)

Alex and I don’t often cook with frozen vegetables. But we’ve been making lots of side dish recipes lately, and peas was a vegetable we wanted to master. Fresh green peas are hard to find, but frozen peas are available year round. Peas used to have an image as one of those scary vegetables. “Eat your peas!” was a common phrase shouted by parents as I was growing up. But here’s what we did to transform a bag of frozen peas into a delightful, delicious side dish (or go right to the recipe)

  • Start with 2 cups frozen peas.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil in a skillet.
  • Add the peas and 2 smashed garlic cloves. Cook just 2 minutes.
  • Season with kosher salt and add lemon zest.

The Italian-style flavors transform a boring bag of peas into something beautifully delicious and fresh! Not scary at all. In fact: they’re hard to stop eating!

Sauteed Peas with Prosciutto and Shallots

Sauteed Peas with Prosciutto and Shallots is an easy and quick side dish perfect any day of the week and fabulous enough to serve for holiday meals!

I love side dishes that can be made in less than 15 minutes with ingredients that are available all year round. You may be thinking – well fresh peas are only available during spring – luckily this side dish can be made with frozen peas which I always have in the freezer.

To make this Sauteed Peas with Prosciutto and Shallots you don’t even need to thaw out the peas! I love interesting frozen peas recipes – one can only have so many bowls of steamed peas! In this peas recipe the caramelized shallots and the saltiness of the prosciutto really bring this dish to life.

For this peas recipe, I take time to cook the shallots until they start to have a little bit of color. Caramelizing them brings out their sweet flavor and also adds a nice golden color. Now take a look at the photo below, the shallots are starting to get some color – that is when I pulled them out and use them for this recipe. If you have time to caramelized them until they are completely golden brown, you can also do that. Just watch them carefully – it is a low heat – slow process that takes a bit of time and results in wonderful results.