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Add flourishes of spring greens to easy bacon, peas

St. Patrick’s Day may have passed, but springtime’s green is just getting started.

Locally grown salad mixes, herbs and tender produce of all types is showing up in stores to whet our appetites for more in store. During this season when flavors are fresh but not exactly filling, I like to bolster the meal with easy proteins, bacon or pancetta being a couple of my favorites. I can keep them in the freezer, thawing happens in a flash and the bit of fat complements just about any vegetable.

Here’s a dish I consider the stuff of pantry and freezer staples, easy to make any time of year, bringing a pop of green against a backdrop of meaty savor and acid from canned tomatoes. I think the cooking time indicated in this recipe could be shortened to preserve the peas’ texture.

Along with the fresh parsley, consider fresh mint. And stir in some fresh spinach leaves at the last 30 seconds or so of cooking to really highlight spring.

Piselle (Braised Peas in Tomato Sauce)

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 ounces pancetta (about 1 thick slice), diced (optional)

3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 yellow onion, peeled and diced

1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more to taste

3 3/4 cups frozen baby peas

Fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish

In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat, then add the pancetta (if using), garlic and onion. Saute until onion is soft and pancetta is brown.

Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add the peas and stir to combine. Place a lid on saucepan and simmer on low for at least 1 to 2 hours. You will know it's done when peas are soft and a dull green color, and sauce will be really quite thick. Stir occasionally and adjust seasoning as needed to taste. Serve alone or as a sauce over al dente pasta garnished with parsley, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

— Reprinted by Tribune News Service with permission from “Frugal Mediterranean Cooking,” by Melanie Lionello, Page Street Publishing Co., 2020.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Lionello