I have a few passions in life and one of them is cooking and baking. I love to experiment with new recipes, challenge myself with things I’ve never made before, and continuously improve on or perfect my staple dishes. This means I’m always adding to the list of kitchen gadgets and tools I have because there are so many that can make cooking quicker, easier, and even more fun.
Despite what many people think, cooking doesn’t have to be difficult nor terribly time consuming. It can also be really cathartic, a great way to unwind after a long day or to spend some quality time with the kids away from screens.
While I don’t make elaborate meals seven days a week (really, who has the time?), pasta is a staple in my household. It’s the ultimate comfort food, whether you’re talking a heaping plate of spaghetti with homemade, thick tomato sauce or a deep dish lasagna that’s smothered in hot, bubbly cheese.
One of the favourites in the pasta category in my household, especially with my 8-year-old son, is a recipe I make often: pasta with cream sauce. Actually, we call it “Triple P” pasta because it’s made with parmesan cream sauce, peas, and pancetta. While it’s totally fine to use store-bought pasta noodles with this sauce, which is what I do most of the time when I make this as a super quick weeknight meal, I’m including a quick and easy recipe for homemade noodles if you’re feeling ambitious. Keep in mind that you can also use any type of pasta: we’ve had this with linguine noodles, bow ties, penne – you name it!
What do you need to make homemade pasta with cream sauce?
Homemade pasta with sauce is actually quite easy to make. When it comes to homemade pasta dough, while you can certainly roll and cut it by hand, I use my KitchenAid stand mixer and pasta roller and cutter attachments, which makes the process significantly easier. Then, you’ll need the following:
Tips for making the pasta
Before getting to the recipe and directions, here are a few things I have learned after having made the meal more than a dozen times. Keep these in mind before proceeding to the recipe portion.
Tip One: Hang fresh pasta to dry and cook quickly
If you decide to make fresh pasta, it’s important that you roll it out very thin and hang it somewhere to dry before being cooked, dusted with flour to prevent it from sticking and boiling in big clumps. I have wooden pasta drying racks, but some of the most traditional cooks simply place a broomstick between two chairs and use that! You can also improvise and lay out cut noodles on parchment paper that’s lightly dusted with flour.
If making dry pasta, cook it to al dente—you don’t want it to be too mushy. It should be firm but not hard.
Tip Two: Timing is everything
Make sure to start heating the water to a boil ahead of time for a few reasons. First, you don’t want the fresh pasta to sit too long and dry out. (Fresh pasta will also be good in the fridge for a few days or you can freeze it and cook from frozen if you want to make big batches.) Second, you don’t want the sauce to sit on the heat for too long or it won’t be the right consistency. You can keep whisking every few minutes while on low if your pasta isn’t done by the time the sauce is. But try to time it such that the pasta will be just coming out of the pot as the sauce is about to be done.
Tip Three: Always use freshly grated parmesan cheese
When making fresh parmesan sauce, it’s important not to use pre-grated cheese that comes in a container or bag. Get a triangle of fresh parmesan, grate the cheese and let it, along with the heavy cream, get to room temperature before adding them to the sauce. This will make it easier for the cheese to melt, preventing grainy or lumpy sauce.
Tip Four: Use cream cheese in a pinch
I have made this pasta before only to be halfway through and realize I’m low on heavy cream. In a pinch, add cream cheese, a teaspoon at a time, until you get the sauce to your desired consistency and taste. I have even used whipping cream and it still came out great.
Tip Five: Watch your salt
If you opt to make it Triple P style like me, add less salt when tasting since the pancetta will brings tons of saltiness once you add it in the end.
Tip Six: Watch the sauce
The most critical part about this sauce is not to turn the heat up too high so as to cause the butter and cream to “split” or “break.” This is when the butter separates from the sauce and could start to curdle. You can avoid this by keeping the heat low and gradually turning it up to a gentle simmer. Keep whisking the cheese as well, quickly and consistently, until the sauce is a nice, smooth texture.
Tip Seven: Frozen green peas are easiest
I like to use frozen green peas with this recipe, defrosted in the microwave before adding to the sauce. But fresh works fine, too.
Tip Eight: Use Pre-minced garlic
I use refrigerated, pre-minced garlic, which is actually very flavourful and can be stronger than fresh garlic. Use less of it than freshly chopped garlic (read the label for the equivalent measurement). It saves time since you don’t have to worry about mincing garlic cloves yourself.
Tip Nine: Use dry pasta for a quicker meal
For a quicker weeknight meal, skip the homemade pasta altogether and go with dry store-bought pasta. That’s what I do nine times out of 10 with this recipe.
Tip Ten: Get creative!
Don’t be afraid to get creative with the optional additions. Maybe you want to use bacon or ham instead of pancetta, for example, or add fresh basil. Sometimes, I add red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick (after dishing out my son’s helping). Add your own flare and make little changes until you find the right combination for you and your family.
Have a really big appetite? While this dish is pretty rich, you could also serve it with some delicious garlic bread to add crunch.
Homemade pasta with cream sauce, pancetta, and peas
Now that we’ve covered some prepping tips, here’s the recipe and directions.
For the pasta
- 2 ½ cups flour (all-purpose is fine)
- 4 eggs
- Dash of salt (optional)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the sauce
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 cup heavy cream (in a pinch, you can use cream cheese if you don’t have heavy cream, or any cream with a higher fat content)
- 1 clove garlic (or ½ tsp bottled minced garlic)
- 1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese
- Dash of salt
- ¼ cup dried or fresh parsley flakes (optional)
- One package pancetta (about 1 cup cubed)
- ¾ cup green peas (frozen or fresh)
- Fresh parsley and/or basil for garnish (optional)
Instructions for the pasta noodles
As noted, if you’re pressed for time or don’t have the tools (or the patience!) to make homemade pasta noodles, it’s totally fine to make this sauce with dry noodles, too. If doing that, simply follow the directions on the package to cook them al dente. Otherwise, here’s how I make noodles.
- Add flour and salt to a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour.
- Add eggs and oil to the centre.
- Use a fork or your hands to slowly mix the flour into the eggs and oil until you get a dough. Continue working with your hands.
- Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes. To save time, you can also use a stand mixer and dough hook and knead for 2-3 minutes instead.
- Cover with a clean towel or saran wrap and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Roll with a pasta rolling pin and cut into strips of the desired thickness for spaghetti, linguine, etc. If you are using pasta cutters, cut in batches to the desired pasta type.
- Fill the pot just over halfway with cold water.
- Add a dash of salt and olive oil to the water.
- Bring water to a rolling boil and add pasta.
- Fresh homemade pasta will be done within 2-3 minutes; keep checking and tasting to get a perfect al dente, slightly firm, texture.
- Strain in a colander. Then, pour pasta back into the pot that has been taken off the heat.
- Pour sauce over top, mix, and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley or basil if desired.
Instructions for the pasta sauce
- Cook pancetta in saucepan until desired doneness. It should be crispy but not overdone.
- Remove and drain most of the grease from the pan, leaving about a teaspoon worth.
- Melt butter in the same saucepan over medium-low heat, using a wooden spoon to scrape up leftover bacon bits from the pan. Make sure the heat isn’t too high.
- Add heavy cream and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly until cheese fully melts and you get a nice, smooth texture.
- Add parsley. Taste and add salt if desired. Continue to mix.
- Add the heated green peas and cooked pancetta. Mix.
- Pour over cooked pasta, mix, and serve.
Like this recipe? Don’t forget to bookmark it, especially if you plan to take some time over a weekend to try your hand at homemade pasta noodles. Stay tuned for next week when we tackle another great dinner idea. And peruse the Kitchen & Dining section of Best Buy Online to find all the tools you’ll need to help you on your journey to becoming a better cook.