I like to buy packages of diced pancetta, but if that’s not available, a package of slices will do and you can do the dicing yourself. Pancetta is the common form of Italian bacon and, unlike American bacon, is unsmoked, lending it a sweeter and less assertive flavor that pairs perfectly with peas. As for the peas, I buy the regular sweet peas, which hold up to freezer a little better than the petite versions. And if you have an onion or some cloves of garlic, all the better.
The diced pancetta is sautéed in a little olive oil, with diced onion or garlic if you have it, until the cubes just start to crisp up. Add the peas, still frozen and ¼ cup or so of white wine, water or chicken broth.
Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the peas are warmed through. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper and you’ve got a perfect side dish for grilled meats or fish. But it only starts there.
Peas and Pancetta: Follow the basic instructions above. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Rice Pilaf With Peas and Pancetta: Follow the basic instructions, sautéing the pancetta with lots of diced onion. Mix with cooked white or brown rice. If possible, cook the rice with chicken broth instead of water. If you have fresh parsley or mint, finely chopped them and add right before serving.
And two of my favorite 30-minute meals . . .
Pasta With Peas and Pancetta: Add the cooked peas and pancetta to drained cooked pasta along with ¼ cup or so of the pasta cooking water, some extra-virgin olive oil and plenty of pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan-Reggiano.
Shrimp With Peas and Pancetta: If you’re lucky enough to have also stashed some shrimp in the freezer, this a winner. Sauté or grill deveined, peeled shrimp; remove to a plate and keep warm while preparing the pea and pancetta mix. (Garlic is a great addition here—add while sautéing the pancetta.) Add the shrimp back in with an extra splash of wine and cook for 1 minute to reduce the wine.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick