If you’re behind on your Easter dinner planning and need a quick but traditional Italian verdura, this here is it, especially if you make it with frozen peas—no shelling involved, and in New York frozen is all we’ve got for now. I say this is traditional. Well, the peas, pancetta, and onion combo is classic, but I’ve added some other flavors to deepen and round out the taste experience. I include nutmeg, allspice, coriander seed, vermouth, and fresh mint. This makes a beautiful side for lamb or in an all-vegetable Easter table. You can even leave out the pancetta if you like, but it’s definitely better with it in. Frankly I’d be happy with just this one dish, some good bread, a few glasses of rosé wine, and a slice of pastiera for dessert. What more could one need?
Happy Easter to all my Italian cook friends.
Easter Peas with Pancetta, Onion, Mint, and Warm Spices
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ pound pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into small dice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground coriander seed
3 cups freshly shucked peas (or you can use frozen, thawed, and well drained)
¼ cup dry vermouth
¼ cup chicken broth
10 spearmint sprigs, the leaves lightly chopped
In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon or so of olive oil over a medium flame. Add the pancetta, and sauté it until crisp but not too darkened. Add the onion and all the spices, and sauté until the onion has softened and everything is fragrant, about 3 minutes or so. Add the peas, and sauté for a minute. Add the vermouth, letting it bubble for a few seconds. Add the chicken broth, and cover the skillet, to allow the peas to cook through to just tender. Fresh peas will take about 4 minutes; the frozen ones go faster. When they’re almost tender, uncover the skillet to let some liquid evaporate. Season with a little salt (the pancetta is salty, so taste first) and black pepper.
Pour the peas with all their skillet juices into a wide serving bowl. Drizzle on a little fresh olive oil and scatter on the mint. Serve right away.