A Quick & Easy Cavatelli Pasta with Fresh Peas and Pancetta
This cavatelli pasta recipe was part of a Blue Apron package we received. I've shared several of my favorite dinners coming from this home meal delivery service and continue to use their service to make dinner decisions easier and less shopping.
The sides that are part of this recipe include asparagus, lemon and soft boiled eggs. All of the ingredients can be found at your higher end supermarkets but if you can't find some of them, I'll offer some substitutions.
What is Cavatelli Pasta?
Cavatelli [cah-vah-TELL-lee] They are a called a shell pasta and if you spend any time at the beach, you may find some shells that have their shape. I have. For the Soprano fans out there, they were called 'gavadeels' [gah-vah-deels] on the show.
The name translated means little hollows coming from the verb 'cavare' or 'to hollow'. When you look at cavatelli you may think gnocchi but they are completely different animals.
Gnocchi are made with potatoes or cheese while cavatelli is prepared with durum wheat semolina flour and water, no egg.
I'm finding cavatelli at many of my local supermarkets but if you can't find them there, check out an Italian market or specialty store. If all else fails, you can purchase them online.
If you want to substitute another pasta for this dish, you can try orecchiette, conchigliette or fusilli.
What is Pancetta?
Simple, pancetta is the Italian version of our bacon but in my opinion, it is better. Unfortunately, it is harder to find and more expensive than bacon but bacon makes a good substitute if you can't find pancetta.
Pancetta is prepared by seasoning and salt curing meat from a pork belly. It is cured for about 3 weeks and is not smoked like bacon is.
What does it taste like? Pancetta has a strong pork flavor and is a little saltier tasting then bacon. I have used pancetta in a few of my posted recipes including:
What About Mascarpone?
Mascarpone is a soft Italian "cream" cheese very similar to creme fraiche but milder and sweeter. It is heavenly when used to make sauces creamy. I've noticed Blue Apron uses mascarpone in a lot of their recipes.
Some people confuse mascarpone with cream cheese but they are completely different. Mascarpone is not as firm as cream cheese and has a velvety texture and much bigger mouthfeel that is rich and creamy.
If you are looking for a substitute, I would go with creme fraiche or even plain Greek yogurt.
Cavatelli Pasta with Spring Peas & Pancetta Recipe
- 1 large pot for cooking eggs and pasta
- 1 large saute or fry pan
- 2 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 ounces pancetta diced
- 1 drizzle olive oil
- 10 ounces cavatelli pasta fresh if possible
- 4 ounces sugar snap peas fresh
- 1 bunch mint
- 1 lemon
- 6 ounces asparagus fresh
- 5 ounces baby spinach fresh
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1 shallot
- 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Soft Boiled Eggs
- Fill a pot large enough to cook the pasta and bring to a boil.
- Salt the water.
- When the water comes to a boil, carefully add the eggs to the water using a slotted or regular spoon. Don't just drop them in.
- Cook for 7 minutes for soft boiled eggs.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the eggs from the pan and rinse under cold water for about 45 seconds to stop the cooking process.
- Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, remove the peels and season with salt and pepper.
- Reserve the eggs but don't throw out the boiling water. You'll need it to cook the pasta.
Prep the Ingredients
- Blue Apron says to wash and dry all the fresh produce before starting the prep. This is a very good idea because you don't know where most of the produce comes from, how it is handles and what type of pesticides they use.
- The sugar snap peas have a string that runs the length of each pod. This string is tough and most difficult to chew. Simple remove the string by using a paring knife to grab the string from one end and pull off.
- Once the snap peas are de-stringed, cut them in half crosswise.
- Asparagus has a tough woody stem that you'll want to remove. I like to grab it at the end and in the middle and snap off the tough woody stem. It's like magic how the asparagus knows exactly where to snap off but it always works.
- Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces but please leave the pointed tips intact. They always look impressive on a plate.
- Zest the lemon with a zester or small side of a box grater. I've noticed many, many of Blue Apron recipes require zesting a lemon or lime. It does however add a nice layer of flavor.
- After zesting, quarter the lemon, remove the seeds and reserve for later.
- Peel the shallot and dice to a medium dice. We could get technical and examine exactly what a medium dice looks like but we'll reserve that for another day.
- Finally, pick the mint leaves off of the stems and discard the stems.
- Oh yeah, most likely you are not going to purchase pancetta already diced like Blue Apron sends to you. You are going to buy a piece from the market and need to dice it yourself. This dice is larger than the dice you made for the shallot. Maybe I do need to write a post about the different dice sizes!
Cook the Pancetta
- Heat a large fry pan, large enough to hold all the ingredients including the pasta one medium high heat until hot. Blue Apron suggests to use a nonstick pan if you have one. When the pan starts getting hot, add one drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the diced pancetta.
- Cook the pancetta until it because lightly browned and is cooked through. This will take about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked pancetta to a plate topped with a paper towel and reserve for later.
Cook the Pasta
- In the same pot of boiling water you soft boiled the eggs, add the pasta and bring to a boil. Cook until the pasta is al dente. The cooking times will be different if you are using fresh cavatelli or dried. The cooking times should be posted on the container.
- When the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat, remove 1 cup of the pasta water, reserving for later and drain the pasta into a colander.
Cook the Vegetables
- In the pan you cooked the pancetta, add another drizzle of olive oil and heat on medium high. When hot, add the peas and asparagus pieces. Blue Apron likes you to cook with out stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until slightly softened. I have a very difficult time not stirring after the first minute but I'll let you try both methods and decide for yourself.
- Add the "diced" shallots then season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots are lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally after you add the shallots.
- Add the spinach and season with the hot pepper flakes, to taste.
- Cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 more minutes.
Put the Meal Together and Serve
- Add the cooked pasta to the pan of vegetables and add the mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, half the parmesan, the juice from 2 of the lemon wedges and half the reserved pasta cooking water.
- Cook all the ingredients on medium high for 2 minutes remembering to stir constantly to coat the pasta with the sauce in the pan. If you think the sauce is too dry, add some more of the reserved pasta water but don't make it too watery.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the reserved pancetta. Cut the soft boiled eggs in half.
- Serve the pasta, vegetables and sauce on plates or in bowls. Top each plate with 2 soft boiled egg halves, mint leaves that have been torn by had, remaining parmesan cheese and a lemon wedge on the side.