One easy pasta recipe that I make regularly is pancetta pasta and peas, tossed in a simple garlic and olive oil sauce and finished with Parmesan cheese. So good!

Simple pasta with pancetta and peas in a serving cast iron  pan

I love all sorts of sauces to dress up my pasta, and I do make a mean homemade spaghetti sauce that everyone loves.

But if there is a sauce I favor, partly because I'm a lazy cook, it is extra virgin olive oil and a good amount of minced garlic, traditionally known as aglio e oilo. It is the simplest of all sauces, and I am telling you, it is the secret to this delicious spring pancetta pasta recipe!

What I love about this pancetta pasta

There is so much about this pancetta pasta with peas that a busy cook will love, such as the fact that it takes one pan and 30 minutes or less to make. But, for me, there are two more reasons that make this an awesome pasta dinner:

  • Loaded with flavor, thanks to crispy pancetta bites, sweet peas, fresh garlic, olive oil and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese! Perhaps the one surprising flavor bomb in this recipe is Aleppo pepper, which is milder pepper of fruity, tangy, red chili flakes. It is not very spicy, but still provides some heat, giving off sweetness akin to the best kind of sundried tomatoes. (Shop our Aleppo-style Pepper.)
  • It is a lighter and brighter alternative because we skip the use heavy cream-based sauces in favor of a delicious and better-for-you olive oil and garlic sauce, augmented with a bit of the starchy pasta water. Not to worry, we do build just enough of that "comfort factor" by using pancetta and a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese.
Pasta with Peas and Pancetta ready to be served

Can you substitute bacon for pancetta?

Cubed pancetta is ideal for this recipe, but the short answer here is yes, you can substitute bacon for pancetta as long as you understand that there will be a bit of a flavor difference.

Both pancetta and bacon are pork products that come from pork belly and are cured for a certain amount of time. Bacon is cured just like pancetta, but the process goes a bit further in that bacon is also cold-smoked after it has been cured. Bacon will have a smoky taste infused with any range of flavors from apple to maple, depending on the wood used in the smoking process.

So, if you're looking for more of a deep, smoky flavor, you can absolutely substitute bacon for pancetta.

And whether you use pancetta or bacon in this pasta and peas recipe, you will have to cut it up into small bits and cook it the skillet before adding to the pasta.

Close-up of peas and pancetta served on pasta

How to cook pancetta for pasta?

If you're using cubed pancetta, cut it up into small bits. Heat heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, tossing regularly, until fully browned.

It is important to drain the pancetta well, and you can do that by simply placing the cooked pancetta over a plate lined with paper towel.

As far as the fat remaining in the pan, you will want to carefully dispose of most of it leaving only a little bit to flavor the pasta. Carefully transfer the pancetta fat to a heat-safe bowl until it has cooled, then you can safely dispose of it from there.

What to serve with this pancetta pasta and peas?

On warm nights, this makes the perfect pasta dinner. I like to add a big salad to start, like Panzanella salad, avocado salad or balela salad. 

But if you're looking to use it as a side dish, you can serve this pasta pancetta next to something like baked chicken breast or even pan seared salmon.

Pasta with pancetta and peas close up shot

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4.91 from 21 votes

Simple Pancetta Pasta with Peas and Parmesan

The Mediterranean Dish
pancetta pasta with peas in a cast iron skillet
Simple pancetta pasta and peas, tossed in a simple garlic and olive oil sauce and finished with Parmesan cheese. So good!
Prep – 10 mins
Cook – 20 mins
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 4 people (up to)
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • ½ lb thin spaghetti or pasta of your choice
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4- oz cubed pancetta, cut into small bits (you can use bacon if you need to)
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups peas, thawed if frozen
  • 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes, divided
  • 2 cups packed chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, ½ cup or more to your liking

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta to al dante in plenty of salted boiling water, consult package for instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water aside, then drain pasta (some of the starchy pasta water will serve as sauce later)
  • Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and cook, tossing regularly, until fully cooked and browned. Remove pancetta onto a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Carefully dispose of most of the pancetta fat leaving just a hint (about 2 tsp) for flavoring.
  • Set stove top  to medium heat and return skillet to heat. To the little bit of pancetta fat, add 4 tablespoon Private Reserve extra virgin olive oil. Heat until shimmering but not smoking, then add shallots, peas, salt, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes, tossing regularly. Add garlic and parsley and cook for another 3 mins, or until peas are fully cooked through.
  • Now return cooked pancetta to skillet. Add cooked pasta and ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss to combine.
  • Add grated Parmesan cheese (you might stat with 3 to 4 tablespoon and adjust as needed.) Test and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) to your liking.
  • Transfer pasta to serving bowls and enjoy!

Notes

  • Note: Because this pasta comes together quickly, it's a good idea to work on salads etc. before you begin making the pasta.
  • Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients, including olive oils and spices such as Aleppo pepper used in this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 308.8kcalCarbohydrates: 50.8gProtein: 9.3gSaturated Fat: 1.2gSodium: 23.4mgPotassium: 395.8mgFiber: 4.1gSugar: 3.5gVitamin A: 2534.2IUVitamin C: 57.1mgCalcium: 75.9mgIron: 3.1mg
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*This recipe and post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2018 and has been recently updated for readers' benefit.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe was soooo good and so quick and easy to make. My husband even liked it. He added black olives to the pan and I served rotisserie chicken with it and white wine.

  2. 5 stars
    This is one of my family's favorite quick dinners! Goes really well as a side with some grilled chicken, too!

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for such an amazing and very simple recipe! I made it for my family using bacon which I already had on hand, and everyone loved it!

  4. 5 stars
    THIS WAS SO GOOD. My step family has a wonderful carbonara recipe but it was often complex to get right and full of more butter, bacon, and egg yolks then I wanted to deal with while making dinner. But this recipe captured the flavorfulness of carbonara while being much easier to make. The ingredients are simple but so flavorful. The garlic is key, the lemon adds that necessary brightness to counter the richness of the EVOO/pancetta, and the parsley gives it a nice, fresh herby flavor. I will definitely make this again! I also made this with GF pasta and it worked out well.

    1. Hi, Debbie. I think you could do steps 2 and 3 the day before. For best results, I would wait to cook the pasta and put everything together just before serving, though.

  5. Plan to try this soon. You mention adding tomatoes and other ingredients but they are not mentioned in the recipe. Are you using sun dried tomatoes or fresh and how are you adding these?

  6. 4 stars
    I have been making this recipe for years, it has been a favorite to family and guests. If I know a guest especially likes mushrooms I will add those. I am addicted to Aleppo chilies!! Only difference in recipes is the amount of sodium. When adding any high sodium meat, I never add salt!! I never have and that includes the pasta water. Then you add the salted pasta water to the sauce, PHEW!
    As I now cook for me, an occasional guest, I only keep salt for rare baking. Everyone knows to bring their own but, over many years most salt is left home. They are amazed at the natural flavors they taste for the first time!!
    Love your KOFTA kabobs!!raf

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Roberta! As you indicated in your note, it's really easy to adjust this recipe to your needs. Thanks so much for your kind note!

  7. 5 stars
    Amazingly had everything on hand except the Aleppo pepper. I substituted smoked paprika and crushed red pepper flakes. It was tasty...

  8. Wow! Really nice and simple. I would like to make this in my home and give you the feedback on it.

  9. 5 stars
    What a beautiful bowl of spaghetti - the simplest pasta dishes are always the tasties and most authentic, and yours looks just the ticket. Beautiful photographs too!

  10. Pasta + pancetta is just the most gorgeous combo in the world right? Your version looks so delicious!!

  11. 5 stars
    This is so easy to make especially for a summer night when you don't want to be spending so long in a hot kitchen. I bet the pancetta adds a nice flavor to this as well.