Pasta with pancetta & pea shoots

Pasta with pancetta & pea shoots

Peas in carbonara aren’t quite traditional Italian, but the combination of peas, pancetta, and black pepper certainly is! The creamy carbonara sauce is brightened by  peas and fresh pea tendrils.

This recipe is a great example of how to get a lot of flavor from a small amount of ingredients. The only condiments available are salt and pepper. To make this dish well,  use enough of these ingredients and prepare them in such a way that they bring out their greatest qualities.

Blanch the peas quickly. It’s easy to overcook the English peas, but they really don’t require much cooking. In fact, they only soak for one minute in the pasta water. This preserves the peas’ structural integrity and prevents the dull, mushy peas that you might find on a cafeteria lunch plate.

As you experiment with the different combinations, you’ll notice how simple it is to use this recipe as a template and substitute one ingredient for another. You can use more delicate herbs like basil, mint, or lovage with more delicate veggies like peas or corn, and more robust herbs like thyme or sage with stronger, richer flavors.

Pea tendrils are better, but if all you have are pea shoots with sensitive leaves attached, toss them in at the last minute so they are somewhat wilted by the residual heat of the cooked pasta dish.


  • ½ pound pasta of your choice, cooked 
  • 1 4-oz package of pancetta
  • 1 C fresh peas
  • 3 C pea shoots
  • 3 T freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Cook the pancetta for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the peas and simmer for another 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.
  4. Add the pea shoots and heat for a further minute before combining everything with the pasta.
  5. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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