Crispy fatty pancetta, check. Salty parmesan cheese, check. Peppery arugula, check. Sounds like a good pasta dish to me. Let’s not be confused this is not cacio e pepe or carbonara, instead this parmesan pancetta pasta combines elements from both. This parmesan pancetta pasta dish is light despite being cooked in pancetta fat and parmesan. Salty and nutty from the freshly grated parmesan cheese. With only 6 ingredients and made in under 30 minutes, this easy pasta dish packs a ton of flavor without being overly complicated.
Damn do I love pancetta. Best part too, a little goes a long way, considering that we are keeping the fat as the base for the sauce. If you aren’t a fan of pork, then unfortunately this pasta dish isn’t for you. While you could sub out the pancetta fat for olive oil or butter, this dish just wont be the same without the occasional bite of crispy rendered pork. If you are like me and love cured meat, specifically pancetta check out my Moules Frites recipe which uses pancetta… and the fat as the base.
What You’ll Need For Parmesan Pancetta Pasta
- Pasta – I went with mafaldine (broader ribbon shaped pasta) for this recipe however any shape works. Players choice here. If you want to use mafaldine, you can find it in most super markets these days however don’t count on barilla to have it. Look at smaller brands, these brands usually have the lesser known shapes. I used this brand which can be found in most ShopRites and on amazon in bulk AnnA.
- Pancetta– Can typically be found by the cheese in a small plastic packaging. This recipe used thicker diced pancetta, but the small cubes work just as well. Note however, cook time will be significantly less for a smaller cut.
- Parmesan– Freshly grated.
- Arugula – Added at the very end to give a fresh note while also
- Black Pepper
- Pasta Water – Just including this here so you know to save it before draining the pasta.
A Few Tips
- The recipe calls to use 1/2 cup of pasta water, but to reserve 1 cup. Why? While the 1/2 cup is plenty to create the light pepper and cheese sauce, you might need more depending on how much evaporates.
- The best pan to toss this pasta in is a frying pan. While the video was created in a dutch oven, the wider profile of a frying pan allows more pasta to cook in the sauce at a time.
Parmesan Pancetta Pasta
- 1/2 package pasta
- 8 oz pancetta diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced finely
- 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly cracked prefered
- 1 1/2 cups arugula
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup pasta water reserve 1 cup before draining
- Cook pasta as per packaging. Right before you drain reserve 1 cup of pasta water and place on the side.
- In a frying pan over low-medium heat add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add pancetta and fry until fat has rendered and most of but not all the pancetta is crispy. This will be between 10 minutes (for super small diced pancetta) to 20 minutes (for larger chunks of pancetta).
- Remove pancetta and 1 tbsp of fat. Fat can be discarded. Pancetta placed on the side.
- Lower heat to low and add garlic. Cook garlic until soft and fragrant without color. If garlic begins to brown lower heat even more. (5-7 minutes).
- Add 1/2 cup of pasta water and mix. Add pepper and let sauce reduce for 2-3 minutes. Sauce will be thin.
- Add pasta, and give a toss. Add cheese and cook pasta and cheese in sauce for 2 minutes, until pasta has been coated and sauce at the bottom is essentially gone.
- Add pancetta, add arugula and toss. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- You shouldn’t have to salt this dish. Between the salty pasta water, pancetta, and parm this dish gets a lot of salt as it is.