Posts Tagged PEAS

Orechiette with Peas, Garlic and Pancetta

Orechiette with Pancetta and PeasOrechiette (or pig’s ears) is undoubtedly the best pasta on the planet. They look like little space ships, for one. More importantly, they are like little “cups” that manage to hold whatever you’re combining it with. This means you miss none of the flavor of the dish.

Now, a word about Pancetta. It’s basically Italian bacon. What makes it different is that it is minus that smoky flavor, which is just perfect for several dishes, including this one. You can buy it several different ways. You can buy it as a big roll. You can have it sliced at the deli of your local grocery store, which is great when you want to put it on burgers. You can even buy it chopped, which is what I do for this particular dish.

This pasta dish is remarkably simple and comes together pretty quickly.


1 lb Orechiette pasta

1 cup chopped Pancetta

1.5 cups frozen peas, defrosted and heated

6 tbsp olive oil

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Parmesan Reggiano (for serving)

1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes (for serving)


Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the Orechiette and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until al dente. You should check after 12 minutes.

While your pasta is cooking, add the Pancetta to a skillet and cook until just a bit crispy. You don’t need any oil for this. Remove and set aside. While this is going on, defrost and heat your peas in a microwave. Set the peas aside.

Add 6 tbsp oil to the pan you cooked the Pancetta in. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the oil is infused. Allow the garlic to cook, but do not allow the garlic to burn. Then add the Pancetta and peas to the pan with the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the black pepper and give it a stir.

Drain the Orechiette and return it to the cooking pan. Add the Pancetta, garlic, peas and oil from the pan and toss until mixed. Pour into a serving plate and top with grated Parmesan. Make sure you serve the pasta with additional Parmesan and red pepper flakes on the side.

Now, all you need is a nice glass of red wine…


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Baked Mac and Cheese With Chipotle Panko

Baked Mac and CheeseNo question about it. What I’m about to give you for a recipe is for adults. There’s no way kids will like Chipotle Panko breadcrumbs on their mac and cheese. In fact, my kids don’t like any breadcrumbs on their mac and cheese, unfortunately for them. So, here’s the deal: If you make this for them, leave off the breadcrumbs unless you ask them first. I make two versions. One is decidedly for adults because I add stuff in as well. The other is for the kids.

I also find that kids like milder cheeses, so I switch it up when I’m making it for kids. In other words, I put more Monterey Jack in for the kids, and less Cheddar. For adults, I’m liable to do just about anything. And I confess I’m a cheesaholic.

This is one of the greatest comfort foods on the planet. It distresses me when kids (who may be visiting) ask if it’s from the box. Ah, that would be a big, fat “No.” Not happening.

So, when you look at this recipe, pay close attention to the notes. This is one of those foods where you can think totally outside the recipe.


16 oz pasta (Anything goes here, except for spaghetti. I like to use Farfalle (bowties), Casserole Elbows (instead of regular elbows), Medium Shells, Rotini, or Cavatappi)

8 tbsp (one stick) butter plus an additional 4 tbsp (for the top when baking)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp Tuscan seasoning (McCormick brand; great product)

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

5 cups milk (whole or two-percent; your choice)

Chipotle Panko breadcrumbs (or regular Panko; your choice)

2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup finely-grated Parmesan cheese


The first thing I do is cook the pasta in a large pot until it is partially done. You’re going to bake it in the oven for at least 30 minutes, so you don’t want to cook it completely. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Another thing you can get out of the way is prepping yourself a large casserole dish by rubbing the inside thoroughly with butter. I use the tub butter for this job, specifically the light butter made with canola. It works just fine.

In a medium sized pan, heat the 4 cups of milk until just boiling. Set aside. While you’re doing that, take the same pan you cooked the pasta in and melt the 8 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add in the flour and whisk continually until the mixture turns light brown. Remove from heat and whisk in the Tuscan seasoning, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Now, add the milk a little at a time. You’ll note that the mixture will be really thick in the beginning, but it will thin out. Once the milk has been incorporated, return this concoction to medium high heat and whisk until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You really don’t need to check this out. You can tell when it’s ready. Trust me. Remove from heat yet again, and add all of the cheese. Mix well until all the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Now, add the partially-cooked pasta and mix well until the pasta and cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Don’t worry if you have to add a few drops of cold milk to this. Again, think outside the recipe. Do what you have to do.

Spoon the mixture into your greased casserole dish and top with Chipotle Panko Breadcrumbs. Take the additional 4 tbsp butter and cut it up so that it sits on top of the breadcrumbs.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling freely.

Cooking Notes

There are a lot of things you can do with this dish. It’s unbelievably versatile. For kids, you may want to eliminate the Chipotle Panko Breadcrumbs and replace them with regular breadcrumbs. I simply use two different casserole dishes. One with; one without. Again, that’s up to you.

But there are a number of things you can add in besides spinach:

  • Chopped and sauteed Pancetta
  • Blanched broccoli florets
  • Sauteed red, yellow and orange peppers
  • Defrosted frozen peas (one of my all-time favorites)
  • Baby Kale (do not microwave before you bake)
  • Baby Spinach (do not microwave before you bake)
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes

All of these additional ingredients, except for the tomatoes, should be added in when you add the pasta to the cheese concoction. With the tomatoes, you can simply layer them with the pasta mixture in the casserole dish.

A Note About Cheese

Let’s talk cheese. The recipe calls for Cheddar and Monterey Jack. You can simply switch the two around and use 1 cup of cheddar and 2 of Monterey Jack for a mac and cheese with milder flavor. Keep the Parmesan as is. Other cheese that can be used in this recipe include Shredded Swiss, Edam, Fontina, or Mozarella, Six-Cheese Italian…even Four-Cheese Mexican. Hey, when it comes to cheese, anything goes.

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Sesame Noodles, Untamed

Sesame-Noodles-680Sesame Noodles are like the Nectar of the Gods. There’s just something about the combination of that sesame flavor with soy sauce that makes them a unique culinary experience. You can make them mild or hot. You can use fresh Chinese noodles, or linguine. And there’s no limit to what you can add to them — Snow Peas, peas, peppers, cucumbers, or shredded carrots. This recipe calls for frozen peas, but use your imagination. As you might guess, mine are also on the spicy side. If you want to make them hot, there’s nothing like making your own chili oil. You can, of course, cheat and buy hot oil, but I recommend you make your own.

This recipe calls for 16 oz of noodles, which makes a lot. The beauty of these noodles is that they taste better as they age. Put the leftovers in your refrigerator, then simply bring them to room temperature and give them a toss when you’re ready to eat them.


16 oz of noodles*

Salt (just enough to put in the noodle water)

1/2 cup Tahini paste (sesame seed paste)

1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

6 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce or Tamari

4 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

Bunch of scallions (whites and greens separated, thinly sliced; plus slice some of the greenest part of the scallion thinly lengthwise for garnish)

2 tbsp of sesame seeds (I use one tsp white and one black)

1.5 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbsp fresh hot peppers, chopped (tabasco, habanero, jalapeno — your choice)

1.5 cups frozen peas (defrosted)


While you’re making your hot chili oil, bring a pan of water (and some salt) to boil and cook your noodles.  Remember to use a big pan. The noodles cook faster and they will not stick together. When noodles are done, strain and rinse well with cold water. Allow to drain completely.

Pour the 1/2 cup of canola oil into a skillet. Add the scallion whites, sesame seeds, chopped peppers, red pepper flakes. Simmer over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until the scallions are browned. Set aside and allow to cool.

Whisk Tahini paste, soy sauce (or Tamari), roasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sugar. Now, here’s where some suggest you should add a portion of your chili oil to the mix. I’m suggesting you want to use the whole thing, especially if you like spice and a bit of heat. You can either drain off about 4 tablespoons of the oil and add to the mixture, or you can toss the whole shebang into the sauce. That’s what I do. Trust me. It’s delicious. Add the rest of the sliced scallion greens (except the ones you’ve sliced lengthwise) and the peas. Pour on the sauce and mix well.

Top the dish with the scallion greens you’ve sliced lengthwise, and sprinkle some more black and white sesame seeds on top. Done.

Note: If you use Snow Peas in place of the frozen peas. Remember to blanch them first and allow them to cool.

*I use the fresh Chinese soba noodles for this dish as opposed to the dry Ramen noodles. These are generally in one of the coolers (not freezers) in the grocery store. In my store, they are kept with the pizza dough and pre-packaged specialty meats, like Pancetta and Italian cold cuts. Ask your grocer if you cannot find them.



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