Pasta With Peas, Pancetta and Goat Cheese

Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese in a bowl with serving spoon
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Speckled with emerald-green peas and crisp, savory nuggets of pancetta, this creamy penne pasta with peas, pancetta and goat cheese is springtime in a bowl.

Penne Pasta With Tangy Chevré And Springy Peas? Yes Please!

This luscious, creamy goat cheese penne recipe embodies the promise of spring, paired with the satisfyingly creamy, rib-sticking warmth that we are (for better or worse) still in need of—at least here in the Pacific Northwest.

ingredients laid out for Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese garlic, cream, chives, salt

The Springtime Dinner of Your Dreams

So—despite the fact that we’ve been ready and waiting since January—it’s still not quite flip flop weather. At least dinner can be springy, even if the forecast leaves a bit to be desired. This creamy penne with pancetta and peas is a burst of springtime thanks to:

  • Peas - You can use fresh peas if you’d like to, but good-quality frozen peas are just as good and certainly a time-saver.
  • Chèvre  - Did you know that cheese is a seasonal food? While it’s true that (thanks to industrialized dairy production and big grocery stores) you can get most kinds of cheese year-round, fresh goat cheese is traditionally a cheese best enjoyed in the springtime. Spring means that goats have given birth and are once again making milk. They’re also grazing on lush spring pastures, which means their milk—and the cheese made from it—is extra rich and delicious.
  • Fresh chives - With their sweet and delicate oniony flavor, chives are an unsung hero of the vegetable-and-herb world. Use them, love them.
  • Garlic - OK, who are we kidding—garlic is a year-round thing for us. BUT! If you happen to see some garlic scapes at your local spring farmers market, you could slice them super thinly and toss them in with the fresh chives to make this pasta even that much more verdantly springy.

How To Make Béchamel Sauce For Pasta:

Béchamel is one of the classic French so-called “Mother” sauces, and is simply a creamy white sauce made from the combination of roux (butter and flour) + milk. Though it sounds fancy, béchamel is actually quite an everyday food—if you’ve made macaroni and cheese, or lasagna, it’s likely you’ve made one before! If not, here’s how make a great, creamy béchamel:

  • Begin by melting butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add flour to create a roux. Whisk constantly for a minute or two. Whisking action plus heat will allow the butter and flour to form a paste, and to cook the rawness out of your flour (which is a good thing).
  • Slowly, slowly, steadily add whole milk to the roux, whisking constantly. You want to really incorporate the milk into the roux—to bring all three elements together into one cohesive, thick and creamy sauce. Constant stirring + heat = sauce.
  • Once you’ve added all of the milk, turn the heat down a bit and keep stirring as the sauce thickens. You’re looking for a finished sauce that is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.
  • Once it’s thickened, you can add whatever you’d like to it! In this case, pasta, goat cheese, pancetta and peas.
stirring Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese in a pan

Pancetta vs. Bacon.

Pancetta is bacon’s Italian cousin. They’re very similar in that both are made from fatty pork belly, but pancetta is cured and bacon is smoked. Pancetta may be slightly harder to find than bacon, but it’s worth a little hunt if you’ve got the time. To prepare it, just cube it up—easier to do when the pancetta is very cold—and fry it in a small drizzle of oil. The fat in pancetta can take a little while to render out, so be patient. Fry until golden brown and until your house smells amazing. Place the fried pancetta cubes on a paper towel to cool as you prep the rest of the pasta. **Sub bacon for the pancetta when necesssary.

Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese in a serving dish

Or, Make It Vegetarian!

This springy, creamy pasta with peas can easily be made into a creamy vegetarian pasta, since the only meat-y thing in it is a bit of pancetta. If you’d like to up the richness factor to make up for leaving out the pancetta, just use a bit more goat cheese. Adding a little extra garlic is a great way to punch up the flavors, too.

close up of Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese and chives

Tools You’ll Need:

No real special tools needed here! Just:

Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese in a bowl with serving spoon

More Springy Dinners: 

Pasta With Peas Pancetta And Goat Cheese in a bowl with serving spoon

So, Did You Make This Pasta with Pancetta and Peas? 

We want to see your béchamel in action, your pancetta frying, your finished, creamy pea-and-pancetta pasta! Snap a photo, or even a video of the beautiful people you feed this pasta to. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Pasta With Peas, Pancetta and Goat Cheese

Serves 6

Ingredients

5 oz pancetta, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
​1 lb penne pasta
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled, divided
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups frozen peas, defrosted
¼ cup fresh chives, chopped

Method

  1. Fry the pancetta in a large skillet set over medium heat. The time it takes for the pancetta to brown will depend on its size. Once the pancetta is turning slightly brown, add the garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes longer until the pancetta is crispy. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  2. Add 4 quarts of water to a large pot set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, salt it with two tablespoons of salt. Once the water returns to a boil add the pasta to the pot. Set a timer for 8 minutes (or the length of time called for on the pasta box).
  3. While the pasta boils, make a garlicky béchamel sauce. In the skillet used for the pancetta, begin by melting butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add the flour, and whisk to form a paste. Allow this butter-flour paste (also knowns as a roux) to cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute until the flour smell is gone. Add the milk in a slow, steady drizzle, whisking as you go.
  4. Once all the milk has been added, turn the heat down to medium and stir constantly until sauce comes to a delicate simmer and thickens slightly. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Add 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese to the sauce and stir until incorporated. Season with salt (and pepper if desired).
  5. Drain your penne. Toss the cooked pasta into the finished béchamel along with the peas and the cooked pancetta/garlic. Salt to taste. Top the finished pasta with chives & the rest of the goat cheese. Enjoy.