You can now find pancetta—Italian bacon—at many supermarkets, most often at the deli counter. Ask for it to be sliced 1/4-inch thick. Note: The eggs in this dish are heated enough to thicken them, but they don't get hot enough to kill any salmonella on the slim chance that the eggs are contaminated. Judge for yourself if this dish is safe for you or the people you are serving.
In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil and cook the pancetta or bacon until cooked through but not crisp. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, lightly beat the eggs; add the thyme, cheese, salt, and pepper.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. About 1 min. before the pasta is done, add the peas (if using) to the boiling water. Scoop out and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and immediately add it (and the peas) to the bowl with the egg mixture. Pour the pancetta or bacon and the rendered fat onto the pasta and toss well until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Add up to the entire 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the pancetta pan to deglaze it, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan, and add as much of this as you like to the bowl of pasta. Taste for salt and pepper. Grate more cheese and grind a little pepper on top of the finished pasta and serve immediately.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Scott Phillips