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Pea Ravioli Carbonara

Recently, my husband accepted an offer at a new agency. He’s one of those advertising guys. You know the type, right? A modern version of Mad Men characters: sharp and witty, with slicked-back hair and well-tailored suits. (By the way, is there anything worse than an outdated, ill-fitting suit on a man? No. There is no room for debate on this.) Yes, they still drink in the office, yes, they still voice politically incorrect opinions and yes, there is still lots…and lots…of scandal. For example, while I’m luckily married to someone who oddly seems besotted with me, there’s a wife I know who would explode if she knew the half of it...and she already thinks she does!

The Friday after Frank accepted his good news, I asked him to pick a dish out for dinner. To explain how that went, here’s the conversation I had with Beyonce* at Campbell Cheese as she was ringing up my wire basket of goodies…

Bey: “Sooo, what are you making tonight?”

Me: “Well, my husband got a new job--"

Bey: “Oh congrats, what does he do?”

Me: “He’s in advertising. New agency, new job title.”

Bey: “That’s great!”

Me: “Right. So I asked him what he wanted me to make tonight and…”

Bey: (An ‘uh-oh’ look is thrown my way)

Me: “He said ‘How about cheese tortellinis with a carbonara sauce!?”

Bey: (Uh-oh becomes alarm)

Me: “So I suggested instead of cardiac arrest for dinner, maybe a pea tortellini lightly dressed in carbonara sauce, and he seemed to like that too.”

Bey: “Yes! Nice call to lighten the pasta by integrating part of the sauce into it. And also by not dying tonight.”

I scurried down the street to get in from the frigid cold and up to our warm, cozy apartment that we are still calling home these days. A quick tidying up of my wrinkly face and the living room as well, I hung a little banner of congratulatory cheer I had made earlier in the day and wrapped two small tokens of good luck for Frank’s new endeavor in paper from the art store.

Frank came home shortly thereafter. While he washed off the city grime and changed, I prepped my kitchen. Is this weird? Probably. After I arrange the cheese board, I always set whatever pots and pans I’m going to use on the stovetop, then organize my vegetable and meat situation, followed by mentally going through the recipe I made up earlier in the day. Why? Well, not because I actually think I’m some important home chef. More like, because it’s Friday and we'll have a cocktail or two while I cook. If I don’t remind myself about a particular herb or salad ingredient, I may-possibly-will-certainly-forget about it.

Onto dinner. The first thing I did was sort out the tortellini filling. I used my trusty hand blender to puree frozen peas, salt, pepper and a heaping spoonful of this ricotta cheese. I used frozen peas because we aren't in season for these delicate favorites of mine, and frankly, I feel that the frozen variety retain freshness and flavor better than canned. I placed the filling into the fridge to set, got a ball of pasta together and started on the sauce. Have you ever heard of pioppini mushrooms? Me neither. They’re the most adorably Smurf-sized mushroom I’d ever seen. I literally did a double take at the market, and by golly, this carbonara was going to include them. The dish was already cruising down Bonkers Highway, so why not?

I had fried up a few slices of Benton’s Bacon in my sautée pan, pretty much taking our entire palace of 940 square feet to a new level of fragrance. This was one of those instances where I happily thought, yes, little lady, that extra $2.75 you spent today was worth it. While the bacon was gazing up at me from a paper towel to drain excess grease, I lightly sautéed the pioppinis in the same pan and seasoned them with salt and pepper. Just a minute or two with minced garlic until tender.

Okay. For those of you who noticed that I’ve been yammering about tortellinis while the title says nothing about them, you caught me, ravioli-handed. I realized as soon as I rolled out and cut up the strips of pasta that they were going to be too narrow to wrap into the tortellini shape. While I like to imagine myself as a round old nonna who can twist up thimble sized torts, sadly I need more practice. Soo…the next best option was a ravioli. Instead of stamping them out, I went old school and pressed them by hand.

While the raviolis hung out in the fridge for a few minutes, I put up a quick salad that would be a refreshing bite to complement the heavy main course. I used my mandoline to thinly slice a fennel bulb and hung onto the fronds. Why is “fronds” such a funny word? FRONDS. Microgreens, an ample handful of pomegranate seeds plus the bulb and fronds, I dressed the salad with a good Greek olive oil (this was a celebratory dinner!) and red wine vinegar after the salt and pepper. Easy peasy.

The last portion of prep went by in a quick flourish, mainly because carbonara sauce can easily turn from perfect to disaster. I kept an ardent eye on the boiling raviolis while creating the sauce in the same sautee pan where the pioppinis were patiently waiting. One egg plus one yolk and a heaping amount of Parmigiano Reggiano previously whisked together were now heating up in the pan. Just before the pasta was finished, I carefully lowered them into the pan with about a quarter cup of the pasta water, then folded in a few leaves of chopped mint and the crumbled bacon.

Plated** and smelling delicious, my sweet husband and I moved over to the dining table. He thanked me for the earlier surprises of Pennsylvania-made rye and a new bound notebook – two essentials in the ad world – before digging in.

Here’s how it all turned out. The sauce was so on point that the dainty raviolis easily were the focal point. The pea flavor was able to really stand out among the heavy hitters in the sauce. The almost-too-cute-to-eat mushrooms popped, and the unexpected mint gave the whole plate a great zing of seasons to come, ie ones that don’t involve weekly snowstorms. The salad was a refreshing offset to the carbonara. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I not only cleaned my plate, but I couldn’t let the last ravioli or two in front of Frank go to waste.

Frank’s new path begins tomorrow. While he’s looking forward to that, I’m looking forward to testing out this dish again. Who’s coming over for dinner?

*One of the cutiepie ladies at Campbell goes by Beyonce Knowles on Instagram. I don't know her real name and I don't need to. She's a fierce cheesemonger, which is way more important than Ms. Knowles' singing capability.

**Has anyone been noticing the new pasta bowls? If you're crushing on them just as hard as we are, check out Dishes With Soul for yourself. Handmade in Montana by a great artist doing what she loves for a living:

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