Fab recipe: Linguine with vodka sauce, pancetta and fresh peas

For years, I tried to duplicate my Dad’s homemade red sauce–with no luck. So, I gave up and came up with some new sauce recipes of my own. This is one of my regulars–the vodka sauce is rich, yet light. When it is topped with crispy, salty pancetta and garden fresh sweet peas, it is divine!

One secret–get (or make) fresh linguine. It makes all the difference and cuts down on cooking time. Fresh linguine takes 2-4 minutes to al dente. I always pick up fresh pasta (and the pancetta and locatelli cheese) at Aversa’s Bakery in Turnersville, NJ. While you’re there, grab a cannoli for dessert!
The ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves of fresh garlic minced
1 can (28 oz or 4 cups) of crushed tomatoes (opt for high quality, spend a buck more and it makes all the difference)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 lb of fresh linguine
1/2 cup of milk (whole or 2% or really whatever you have)
1/4 cup of vodka
1/2 cup of grated locatelli (if you can’t find this, substitute parmesan)
Olive oil
3 oz of Pancetta-diced
1 cup fresh shelled peas (or frozen)
Few basil leaves, diced
Equipment: pasta pot, sauce pan, skillet
Fill your pasta pot with water a pinch of salt and turn on high. While the pasta water boils, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the diced garlic and stir until softened and fragrant, just a few minutes. Add your tomatoes, the pinch of red pepper flakes and salt. Cover with a lid and let simmer.
Heat your skillet on medium-high heat. Add a couple twirls of olive oil. When olive is hot, add diced pancetta. Cook pancetta until crispy, about 3 minutes. Add peas and cook quickly until bright green. This will only take a minute or two. Remove pancetta and peas to another dish; reserving drippings in skillet.
Add vodka and milk (pour milk in slowly, while stirring) to tomato mixture. Cook until heated through-5 minutes. If your water is ready, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.
Drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water. Add drained pasta and tomato mixture to skillet with pancetta drippings. If sauce seems a little thin, add pasta water (a small bit at a time) to thicken. If it seems just right, let it be. Stir in locatelli cheese.
Plate it up: first a large pile of linguini. Then top it with the pancetta and pea mixture and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.