Light Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe

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Pasta with Fresh Peas

pasta and peas

4 to 6 servings

I happen to love peas, and with this recipe for spaghetti carbonara I get plenty! I also love light—not heavy—creamy sauces. I often end up with a stomachache if I eat a sauce that’s too rich.

This recipe has a wonderful balance of flavors, and thanks to the low-fat milk, you won’t come away from the table feeling like you overdid it—unless you want to! This recipe is best when made with fresh pasta. You can find fresh pasta in the refrigerated section at your market. If they don’t carry it, use boxed spaghetti made with semolina flour. Always try to use fresh peas; if they are not in season, frozen peas are fine.


2 cups fresh peas

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 ounces 1/4-inch-thick pancetta, diced into small cubes

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

8 ounces fresh spaghetti or linguine pasta

1 cup low-fat milk, chill taken off

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling

30 small fresh mint leaves for garnish


To prepare the fresh peas, remove the peas from their pods and set aside. For frozen peas, run warm water over to separate; drain and set aside.

In a cold, large, heavy skillet, pour the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the pancetta, and cook over medium heat until the pancetta is crisp. Remove the pancetta and set aside.

Add the shallot to the pan, and sauté until crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions (remember to salt the pasta water—
1 tablespoon of table salt per 3 quarts of water.) Three minutes before the pasta is ready, add the peas. Right before you drain the pasta and peas, remove 3 cups of the pasta water and set aside.

Drain the pasta, giving it one or two shakes, but don’t shake all the water out. Pour the pasta into the pan with the pancetta and shallot. Over high heat, add 1/2 cup pasta water, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add the remainder of the milk and Parmesan cheese, and mix thoroughly. This should thicken the sauce beautifully! If it looks too thick or gooey, add more pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, to maintain a creamy consistency. Top with more grated Parmesan cheese, and garnish with 4 to 5 mint leaves per serving.