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Creamy Lemon Bacon Orecchiette Pasta


We have been on a lemon kick lately - I have a small drawer in my refrigerator and it is literally full of lemons and limes at all times - I love fresh citrus zest and juice in my recipes, it just seems to wake them up and make them bright and delicious.  I also love to squeeze fresh citrus on grilled meat or in our drinks.  

My hubby and I like to eat this quite often when it is just the two of us and we love making it together.  He cooks the pasta and toasts the breadcrumb mixture while I'm making the sauce and frying the bacon.  Cooking is so fun to do with another person.  It's not only effortless when there are two sets of hands, but it's lovely to have something delicious to share as the result of your combined efforts.  If you haven't tried cooking with your significant other, give this recipe a try together!  

*Note:  You could use a different kind of pasta in a pinch, but I love how the little orecchiette cups catch the bacon and peas in the sauce and I was able to find it pretty easily at Walmart. 

Also, don't like peas?  Feel free to leave them out or do like me and serve them on the side so those of us who like them can stir them in and those who don't can have it without!

Ingredients:
  • 16oz orecchiette pasta
  • 12oz bacon
  • 1/2 stick butter, (1/4 cup)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (I throw mine through the ninja chopper to make it almost smooth)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, (reserve a good pinch of the thyme for the panko) or 1/2 Tbsp dried
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced, (reserve a good pinch of the lemon zest for the panko)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup kraft grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • Pasta water
Topping:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup panko break crumbs
  • Thyme and lemon zest reserved from above
Instructions:
  1. Zest and then juice both of your lemons.  Set both aside.  
  2. Remove thyme leaves from the woody stems.  Discard stems and set leaves aside.
  3. Cook the orecchiette pasta according to package directions.  Reserve a mug of the pasta water and then drain the pasta and set aside.
  4. To make the topping:  In a frying pan, toss the olive oil with the panko bread crumbs, a pinch of the thyme leaves and a pinch of the lemon zest over medium heat until lightly browned.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. To make the pasta:  Cut the raw bacon in to little strips and fry in a large skillet, (I use a 5-6 qt), until crispy.  Drain off the excess bacon fat.  
  6. Add in the butter, onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes.  
  7. Add the lemon juice and the rest of the lemon zest and bring to a simmer.   
  8. Slowly drizzle in the half and half and heavy cream.  Stir in the grated and shredded Parmesan, salt and pepper and stir until everything is melted together.  Bring back to a simmer.  
  9. Stir in the frozen peas, then pour the sauce over the orecchiette pasta and toss everything together.  Add some pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin out the sauce to the desired consistency.
  10. Sprinkle half of the panko bread crumbs over the top of the pasta and serve immediately.  (Serve the other half of the bread crumbs at the table to sprinkle over the individual servings along with some shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese.)

Lemon Bacon Orecchiette Pasta


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