I guess it’s not breaking news that pasta dinners are faster than most, but because I tend to plan around the pasta-hater in my house, I don’t get to make these kinds of dishes as often as I’d like. And when I do, and they turn out as deliciously as this Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham (Meal #2 of 7 in my Seven Days, Seven Dinners challenge), I am reminded why I keep trying to fight the good pasta fight. I love Orecchiette here because it scoops up the peas and ham without requiring too much concentrating. (Have you ever tried to have spaghetti with peas? By the time I’m done with dinner and all that twirling and scooping and balancing, my brain hurts.) We used some crazy mail-order country ham (more on that later), but any old ham or pancetta would be fine. Whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for lunch the next day — or in our case, whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for the diner not enjoying the real dinner at the table.
Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham
1 pound of orecchiette
handful frozen peas to taste
salt and pepper
shake or two of red pepper flakes
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 or 3 slices of Country Ham (or ham or a handful of pancetta pieces)
1/2 cup Parmsean, plus extra for serving
2 pats butter
handful freshly chopped mint or parsley
Cook pasta according to package directions. When it has one more minute of cooking, toss frozen peas into the water with the pasta. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water then drain in a colander, drizzling a little olive oil into pasta to prevent sticking. Return pot to the stove and over medium heat, add a few glugs of olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook about a minute, stirring. Add ham and cook until slightly crisp. Add pasta and peas to the pot and stir everything to combine. Add cheese and butter and a drizzle of reserved pasta water to make the cheese distribute evenly. Serve in bowls with more cheese and herbs.