Pasta with fresh peas, or 'pasta coi bisi' in local dialect, is a traditional spring recipe here in the Northern Italian region of Veneto. This simple pasta with peas and pancetta is more than the sum of its parts, which are few! In fact, the first time I had this dish, I was really quite surprised how tasty it is. Of course, the secret ingredient is fresh peas!
In Veneto, a number of towns or areas are famous for their peas, in particular an area of the Berici hills near Vicenza. Here, there is a local variety of peas that they say are the best peas in Italy.
Lumignano peas have been grown in this part of Veneto since 1000 AD. It was Benedictine monks who first introduced them to the area.
These peas have apparently been prized for centuries. The Doges of Venice used to order them as the primary ingredient of their ‘Risi e Bisi’ (rice and peas).
This was a dish the Doges traditionally ate on the Feast of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. Risi e Bisi is still a traditional way to eat peas here in Veneto.
I love the rural Italian tradition of holding annual festivals to celebrate the harvest of the main local crop. I live in the wine producing area of Soave.
Soave is a beautiful Medieval walled town with a castle and every year there is the local wine festival, which we happily attend!. The area I live in is famous for cherries too, so there are also cherry festivals held annually in a number of local villages!
Many of the towns and villages where they cultivate peas hold annual pea festivals (sagra dei bisi) in May. The Lumignano festival is usually held in mid-May. Among others, there’s also the ‘festa dei bisi di Baone’ in the Euganean hills area near Padova.
Then, closer to where I live is the ‘sagra dei bisi’ in Colognola ai Colli. Visitors to these festivals can buy and eat a number of traditional pea based dishes.
The most popular are the rice and peas I mentioned before, as well as pasta with fresh peas made the same way as in this recipe.
- Peas: If you can source fresh peas, I recommend using those. They will give you the most authentic flavor of this recipe. Frozen peas also work great if fresh peas aren't available or you are short on time. I would just avoid using canned peas if possible.
- Pancetta: Pancetta is pork belly that has been cured with spices. You can usually find it at the deli counter or pre-packed near the bacon. If it's unavailable, you can also use non-smoked cubed bacon.
- Pasta: Traditional this recipe is made with tagliatelle but other long flat ribbon pasta will also work. You can try lasagnette, pappardelle or fettuciine.
- Parmigiano: You can use both Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano. They both work best freshly grated from a block, but you can use pre-grated from a packet if you're short on time.
- Cook the pasta in well-salted boiling water. If the pasta water isn't seasoned enough, it will make the pasta taste a little bland. The pasta water should taste like the sea.
- If you love crispy pancetta or bacon, try this. While making this recipe fry an extra ounce of pancetta separately on the side until it's brown and crispy. Then pour it on top of the final dish as a garnish. It's delicious!
Step by Step Instructions
1) Shell the peas by removing the stem and any stringy fibers with a knife. Afterward, open the pod and gently push the peas out into a bowl. Wash them in a sieve with running water and set them aside.
2) In a frying pan or skillet, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onion, pancetta and parsley, then cook until the onions have softened and the pancetta turns pink.
3) Add the peas and vegetable broth, then season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Reduce the sauce while occasionally stirring until it starts to thicken. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
4) Meanwhile, bring a separate pot of water to a boil. Season it well with salt and bring it back to a boil again. Cook the pasta al dente according to the packet's instructions. If you are using fresh pasta, it typically only needs 2-3 minutes.
5) Drain the pasta in a sieve, then add to the frying pan or skillet with the peas and pancetta.
6) Add butter and parmesan, then mix everything until well combined. Taste and season if necessary, then serve.
Storage and Leftover Notes
This pasta with peas and pancetta will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can reheat leftovers in a frying pan with butter or for 2 minutes in the microwave.
More Recipes You May Like
- Fusilli with asparagus
- Poached salmon and asparagus lasagne al forno
- Gargati pasta with spring ragu
- Green pasta salad with edible flowers
- Pasta with peas (pasta e piselli)
If you make this tagliatelle pasta with fresh peas recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it.
Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page. Looking forward to hearing from you.
This recipe was originally published in 2018 but has been updated.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of my newly published autumn/winter pasta recipes cookbook!?
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