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Lightened-Up Pasta with Peas and Bacon
- 12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 cups frozen baby peas (about 10 ounces)
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
- 8 slices turkey bacon (14-15g each), diced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and oil.
- To cook peas, either add them to the pasta pot in the final 1 minute of pasta cooking time, or simply place them in the bottom of the colander through which you'll pour out the boiling pasta water to drain the pasta after cooking (the peas will heat through perfectly from the boiling pasta water draining over them).
- Reserve about ½ cup pasta cooking water prior to draining the pasta.
- Drain pasta and set pasta and peas aside briefly, keeping them warm.
- Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring frequently, about 5-10 minutes. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add olive oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook garlic in the olive oil for about 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn, just until the garlic is softened and fragrant. Immediately remove from heat and pour the garlic-oil into a large serving bowl.
- Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the garlic-oil and whisk to thoroughly combine.
- Add hot pasta and peas to the lemon-garlic-oil mixture and stir thoroughly.
- Add reserved bacon, parmesan cheese, and basil to the pasta mixture, and stir again.
- Loosen if needed with reserved pasta cooking water. (Sometimes we don't need this at all, but sometimes a little pasta cooking water helps to loosen the consistency perfectly.)
Bacon, Salt, and Draining the Fat - As with the bacon in our Cheesy BLT Pierogi Skillet Dinner, I've tested this recipe with center-cut bacon (lower in fat than regular bacon), and also with turkey bacon as this recipe specifies (including a number of different brands and even thick-cut, uncured turkey bacon). They all work great, so choose whichever you prefer, but note that thicker-cut slices may weigh more than the typical 14-15 grams each, in which case you won't need to use as many slices. Also, note that the sodium in various brands and varieties can vary pretty widely, so adjust the kosher salt in this recipe accordingly if needed, tasting your pasta at the end before serving. I've found that the specified ¾ teaspoon should be an amount that works well nearly across the board, but feel free to make adjustments based on the saltiness of your bacon. Also, if you choose turkey bacon as we've suggested, there should be no rendered fat to drain from the pan. However, if you opt for center-cut or fattier bacon, drain the bacon grease before continuing with the recipe.
Make-ahead options: You can dice the bacon, juice the lemon, and mince your garlic ahead of time, storing each separately in the fridge until you're ready to cook. Or, you can go even further and actually cook your bacon (step 5), and then also cook your garlic oil (step 6), whisking it together with the lemon juice, salt and pepper to make the "sauce" (step 7). Store the cooked bacon and the completed "sauce" separately in the refrigerator for up to a day before finishing the recipe.