There are certain ingredients that just go together. Like the cast of Mad Men or the French-girl fashion ensemble of scarf, ballet flats and insouciant attitude— no matter what combination you put them in they will most likely create something you want to spend time with.
Case in point, some of my favorite things:
Pancetta (or bacon or smoked ham), gorgonzola (or Maytag blue or roquefort), peas, chives, lemon, pasta, olive oil, salt (fleur de sel even better), pepper. These ingredients were just meant to be together. Salty, creamy, funky, tart. The hard part for me is how best to combine them…a light cream sauce is a little naughty but just completely works. The trick is to use just enough cream to create a warm base for melting the cheese and binding the ingredients, but not so much that you get the gout. Starchy pasta cooking water helps with this but instead of using heavy cream I substitute slightly-less rich half and half. Also, a 1/4 cup (or giant spoonful) of sour cream or creme fraiche added to the sauce brings a delicious tart creaminess.
I wanted the cheese to be melted into a sauce so I opted for simmering 1 cup of half-and-half and the sour cream or creme fraice until it was reduced by half, and then stirred in a 1/2 lb of the gorgonzola, some grated nutmeg, zest of one lemon, salt and pepper. I then used some of the pasta cooking water later to make a bit more sauce.
As for the farfalle–I know some people consider it the most banal of all pasta shapes. So mid-1990s. So children’s menu. I get it. As a waitress after college I served more than my fair share of butterfly pasta drenched in vodka sauce. But for this dish it just kind of works. Although any shape with some ridges or folds will do.
Recipe for farfalle with pancetta, peas, and gorgonzola
Bring a large pot of water to boil for cooking 1 lb of farfalle. Make sure to salt the water before adding the pasta.
In a large skillet add 1 tbs of olive oil, heat over medium heat and then add 1/2 lb of coarsely chopped pancetta or bacon. Saute until crisp and then remove to drain on a paper towel. Remove all but 1 tbs of the pancetta fat from skillet and then add 1 chopped small yellow onion. Cook onion over medium heat until softened and beginning to turn golden in color. Add half-and-half and creme fraiche/sour cream and simmer until it starts to thicken and reduce. This will take about 5 minutes, stir once in awhile so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Grate in some nutmeg, the zest of one lemon, and then begin to gradually stir in 1/2 lb of gorgonzola so that it melts into the sauce.
Before draining the pasta make sure to remove a cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta.
Add 1 lb of frozen peas (that have been defrosted in your fridge or at least sitting on your kitchen counter while you cook so that they are not completely frozen when you add them) to the skillet with the sauce as well as 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Simmer for 2 minutes until peas are warmed through. Put back in crisp pancetta and drained pasta and stir to combine over low heat. Add more pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Stir in juice from 1/2 lemon (use the one you zested) and salt and pepper to taste. Serve pasta in bowl with chopped chives on top and wedges of the leftover half of lemon. If you have parmesan on hand grate some on top as well.
Enjoy. Think of the 90s.