Salty pancetta is crisped up and tossed together with green peas and shells in a creamy sauce. This Pancetta and Pea Pasta comes together in about 15 minutes with just a few ingredients, making this a perfect weeknight dinner.
On super busy nights, pasta dishes are often the simplest to put together (see here: Tomato Basil Pasta and One Pot Mac and Cheese), and this Pancetta and Pea Pasta is no exception. Plus, it's pasta with pancetta and a creamy sauce...what's not to love?
Using the shell pasta shape enhances this dish because they cup the pancetta and peas, making each forkful of pasta the perfect bite. My son Joaquin loves this because he says the peas--which are a little bit sweet--pair perfectly together with the salty pancetta. I have to say that was a proud moment for this professional cooking mama because I couldn't agree more.
This dinner takes about 15 minutes to put together and uses 7 ingredients that you likely already have at home (okay, except maybe the the pancetta). And of course, this dish is pretty amenable to substitutions (see below), making it a great recipe to keep on hand.
So let's get to making it! You can jump around the article using the menu below, or you can just head right to the bottom for the complete recipe.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is a brief overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The recipe card lists the full recipe with quantities (located below this article).
- medium shell pasta (use any pasta that you want here, though the shells are fun for holding the pancetta and peas, similar to this Creamy Corn Pasta with Bacon)
- pancetta (you can easily swap this out with bacon or ham or even omit it, though you'll lose a bit of flavor so I recommend increasing the garlic and adding salt)
- half and half (or a combination of cream and milk)
- grated parmesan cheese (use the good stuff here, if you can...cheap parm doesn't melt well)
- frozen petite peas (petite peas are really sweet, which is great in this dish, but regular green peas are fine too!)
Overview of Steps to Make It
This is a quick visual overview of the steps needed to make this recipe. If you are looking for the full recipe with the full list of ingredients and instructions, keep scrolling!
While this isn't a one-pot dish (we love those: One-Pot Cheesy Chicken and Orzo Bake), this is still a delightfully easy dinner. Here are the steps needed to make it:
Step 1: Cook the pancetta and drain any excess fat.
Step 2: Add the ingredients for the cream sauce to the pancetta.
Step 3: Prepare the shells and peas.
Step 4: Bring the whole thing together.
Kelli's Tips for Making It
Just a few notes to make sure this recipe goes smoothly for you:
- Add the peas just before the pasta is done (about 1 minute) that way you don't overcook them
- Use good quality parmesan cheese. I don't know if it's the changing times, but cheese quality has gotten pretty shaky lately, and I've noticed that some lower-quality cheeses have difficulty melting and or curdling very easily. Add the cheese, off heat, slowly, to the sauce to assist in smooth melting. If it doesn't look like the cheese is melting, turn on the heat low to assist in heating it until it's creamy. Just be careful, heating cheese too much can make it split and taste grainy.
- Don't add salt until the very end. Because of the salted pasta water and the salty pancetta, you likely won't need to add salt to this dish at all. But if you do, add it in at the end after you've tasted it.
- Add in pasta water a little at a time. However, keep in mind that as the dish sits, the creamy sauce gets thicker and thicker, so you may want to add in just a splash more than what you think you need; that way, it doesn't thicken too much.
This pasta dish reheats nicely. It should keep for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. I can't recommend freezing this.
To reheat you can heat it in an oven-safe container. I love using these Glass Pyrex Containers because they double as storage and baking dishes. Or, you can reheat briefly in the microwave until warmed through. It's best to add a few tablespoons of water to the dish when you are reheating it.
Watch it: Pancetta and Pea Pasta Video
More Pasta Recipes
Making the recipe? Be sure to leave a comment with a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review on your experience! Have a question? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can!Print
Salty pancetta is crisped up and tossed together with green peas and shells in a creamy sauce. This Pancetta and Pea Pasta comes together in about 15 minutes with just a few ingredients making this a perfect weeknight dinner.
- 16 ounces medium pasta shells
- 8 ounces pancetta, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1-½ cups half and half (or ¾ cup cream and ¾ cup milk)
- 1-½ cups frozen petite peas (about 8 ounces)
- ½ cup to 1 cup reserved pasta water
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil, for serving (optional)
- Fill a large pot with water and a big pinch of salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add pasta and set the timer to cook the pasta according to package instructions. With one minute of pasta cook time remaining, add the frozen peas. Check the pasta to ensure it’s cooked to your desired tenderness. Set aside 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and peas and return them to the large pot.
- Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add pancetta and cook until crispy. If needed, you can add a splash of oil to help it crisp up, but you shouldn’t need it. Drain any excess rendered fat from the saute pan.
- Add the garlic and butter to the pancetta and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the half and half and cook with a rapid simmer, about 3 minutes. Shut off the heat. Slowly stir in the parmesan cheese a little a time, until melted.
- Add the cooked pasta shells and peas with ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and pasta water as necessary. Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and basil, if desired.
- Serve immediately.
Don't add salt until the very end. Because of the salted pasta water and the salty pancetta, you likely won't need to add salt to this dish at all. But if you do, add it in at the end after you've tasted it.
Use any pasta that you want here, though the shells are fun for holding the pancetta and peas.
Look for pre-sliced pancetta at the store and save yourself the time of dicing it up.
Pancetta can be swapped out with bacon or ham or you can even omit it. Though you'll lose a bit of flavor so I recommend increasing the garlic and adding salt.
Keywords: Pancetta and Pea Pasta