Pasta with Pancetta, Pecorino Cheese and Arugula is a fun, easy recipe inspired by our time in Italy. The key to great Italian recipes, we learned, is to use just a few quality ingredients and that are fresh and full of flavor. Simple and delicious!
Pancetta vs Bacon
We chose Pancetta for this recipe because it’s easy to find in Italy, and we love the flavor.
Pancetta is cured pork belly that has a rich salty flavor that we really enjoy. The difference between bacon and pancetta is that pancetta is cured in salt and then dried. Bacon is smoke cured. The flavors are different, but thick cut bacon cut into cubes will work in this recipe too.
Pecorino vs Parmesan Cheese
Pecorino cheese is preferred in Rome, because sheep’s milk products are plentiful and the aging process is abbreviated. Pecorino is aged from 5 – 8 months, while Parmesan cheese is aged for a minimum of one year and often more.
Parmesan is a cow’s milk cheese with a mild salty and slightly nutty flavor. Pecorino is softer and has a bold tangy flavor. Both cheeses are often used in the same dish to compliment each other. Using both in this recipe would be a good way to introduce yourself to the flavors of Pecorino Cheese if it is not familiar.
A word about Arugula Lettuce
Arugula or Rocket Lettuce has a tart, almost bitter flavor with notes of pepper. It adds a nice bite to the dish and stands up well to the salty pancetta and strong briny flavor of the Pecorino cheese. We decided to add it rather than just tossing the pasta with fresh parsley. The results are really fantastic.
Like most dishes in Italy, this Pasta recipe has just a few quality ingredients that come together to make a dish that is refreshing and memorable.
Here are a few additional Italian inspired pasta recipes you might enjoy:
- 2 Ounces (60 g) of #5 Spaghetti Pasta
- 3 Ounces (25 g) Cubed Pancetta
- 3 Cloves Garlic - diced
- 1 Cup (20 g) Arugula Lettuce - roughly chopped
- 1 Ounce (28 g) of shaved Pecorino cheese (or Parmesan or combination)
- 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt, Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes to taste.
- Cook the pasta per package directions in salted water.
- In the mean time, add the Pancetta to 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil pan and cook over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes until it begins to brown. Note: At this point you can decide to drain the grease from the cooked pancetta and substitute olive oil if you want a dish lower in saturated fat.
- Add garlic and cook until slightly browned.
- Be careful not to burn the garlic as it will add a bitter flavor to the dish.
- Add in 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil and continue to sauté for 1 -2 minutes.
- Add the pasta to the pan along with most of the arugula with a pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and toss.
- Toss with the cheese and add the additional arugula as a garnish.
- Serve immediately so that the arugula will retain its crispy texture.