I love using shells for this simple sauce because the shells collect the peas and the mushroom sauce in the nooks and crannies and deliver a surprise with every forkful. Prosciutto can be substituted for the bacon for a more authentically Italian taste, and other seasonal vegetables can be added or substituted, as long as they are cut in small pieces to nestle inside the shells.
- 1 ½ cups shelled young peas, or frozen baby peas
- ½ cup chopped spring onions or scallions
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 slices of bacon, finely chopped
- 2 cups cleaned and sliced mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and crimini
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups Chicken Stock or canned chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 pound pasta shells (conchiglie)
- ½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
If using fresh peas, blanch them in a medium saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes. Drain the peas and rinse them under cold water until cool. Drain them thoroughly. Frozen peas need to be defrosted and drained, but not blanched.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and onions and sauté, stirring, until the onions are wilted, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle them with salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the mushrooms have lost their moisture, about 5 minutes.
Add chicken stock, peas and butter and season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Meanwhile, stir the shells into the boiling water. Cover the pot and reheat to boiling, stirring once or twice. When the water returns to a boil, uncover the pot. Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente— tender but firm— about 12 minutes.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot over low heat. Add the sauce and stir over low heat until the pasta is coated. Remove from heat and add the grated cheese. Toss well and transfer to a warmed serving platter or individual bowls. Serve immediately.