If I were to reduce my entire approach to cooking—and especially my approach to cooking pasta—to a four-word quip, it would be this: Start with the market.
It’s an approach that couldn’t be simpler, but it yields splendid results every time. Just go to the best food market you can find, find the prettiest thing in it, and cook a meal based around that. It might get tricky in the wintertime, or if you find yourself wanting for high-quality food markets, but at Portland Farmer’s Market in the late summertime, you cannot go wrong.
On this particular lap through the farmstands, it was the shelling peas that were talking to me. I normally think of peas as a springtime delight, but they can be scored at the market well into fall, and today they showed as big, beautiful, and enticing.
Know what you can’t get in the spring? Peppers. On this day, however, they were abundant in quantity and variety. I tend to like the more elongated types a bit better than the bell-shaped ones—those skinnier peppers pack in a lot more sweetness to the bite. Their are any number of varieties and names, but often you see these called Italian Sweet Peppers or something of the sort. Those go fantastically well with something like this pasta dish. This really isn’t rocket science.
I’ve always loved the pairing of peas with garganelli, a pasta shape similar to penne made by rolling squares of egg dough with a small dowel. The silkiness of the fresh egg pasta is a great complement to the delicate sweetness of the peas, and garganelli is the perfect size for peas (and guanciale chunks!) to get trapped in the pasta straws, so you just get a magnificent marriage of flavors. The guanciale, an Italian-style bacon made from the hog’s jowl that I get from fantastic local provider Tails and Trotters, fortifies a dish that might feel a little too light as a main otherwise. If you can’t find guanciale, pancetta is a fine substitute, or you can omit it entirely, particularly if you’re serving pasta as a first.
- 1 recipe egg dough
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more or less
- 3 oz/80g guanciale (or substitute pancetta, or omit entirely), diced finely
- 2–3 Sweet Italian Peppers (or similar), sliced thinly
- 1 heavy pound/500g of shelling peas (or substitute 8 oz/225g frozen peas)
- Pecorino to top
1) To make the garganelli, follow the instructions as outlined in our egg dough primer, and roll the dough out to a medium-ish thickness; I recommend setting #5 on the standard Atlas/KitchenAid-type machines. I often see recipes that call for rolling garganelli out to setting #6, but I find this is too thin—the garganelli don’t turn out al dente and are far more apt to flatten rather than to retain their tube shape.
2) Once rolled, cut the sheets into squares of about an inch and a half per side. Then, roll each square over a wooden dowel over a garganelli board, giving the outside of the shape ridges as you seal it into a cylinder (In Italy, they have Garganelli “combs” but I haven’t seen any stateside. Here, things marketed for making garganelli and gnocchi are often interchangeable). Slide the shape off the dowel (depending on your flour/moisture situation, this is the only potential challenging part), rinse, and repeat. Like so:
3) To make the sauce, place the guanciale and the oil in a large pan and set the heat to medium, maybe a little lower or higher depending on the power of your range. When the pan gets hot and the guanciale starts to sizzle, add the pepper. Let it go for about 10 minutes, until the pepper is soft and the guanciale starts to just darken and crisp. Taste it for seasoning. It’ll probably need a pinch of salt, but not much more than that since the guanciale comes heavily spiced.
As always, one of the main challenges is timing things so that the pasta is finished cooking right as the sauce is ready. It’s especially important to get this right with pan sauces like this one, because you finish by stirring everything together. These thick garganelli can take a good 7, 8 minutes or more to cook, depending on their mood, so Cook the pasta, trying to time it so that the pasta is ready just as the guanciale is brown. When the pasta is delightfully al dente, stir it into the guanciale & oil, add the peas, and let it all cook together for a minute or two. Plate it up, top with some pecorino or a similar hard but mild cheese, and eat up!
We’ll try one more of these pinterest-ready things but I just may not be a pinterest kind of guy. I’ve been having much more fun engaging on reddit and facebook, so hopefully we can still be friends there if I stop on the pinny site. Still, if you find these useful, let me know.