Pasta e piselli, or pasta and peas, is a simple pasta dish that’s easy to make with just a few ingredients. The creamy pasta and the sweet peas marry together beautifully with grated cheese for the ultimate comfort food.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on 9/5/2019. Updated with full process shots and expanded info.
There is something so comforting about the combination of pasta and peas.
Whether it’s in this white pasta e piselli, or pasta with peas in red sauce, the sweetness of the peas and the creamy, starchy pasta is a winning combination.
Since this dish is made with ingredients you likely already have on hand (frozen peas, onion, and pasta), it’s perfect for times when you don’t want to run to the grocery store but still want something good!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Dice one large onion and grate 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Heat a large pot or pan to a touch less than medium heat and add 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the onions. Note: You want to get the onions nice and soft, but impart no color to them. Lower the heat or add a touch of water if they start to burn.
- Cook the onions for 5-7 minutes until very soft, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1 pound of frozen peas, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Add 1 pound of ditalini (or other small pasta) and turn the heat down to medium.
- Cook the pasta at a moderate simmer until al dente, stirring very frequently to avoid sticking. If the pasta dries out, add a touch more water as needed to loosen it up.
- Once you’re satisfied with the consistency and the pasta has reached al dente, remove the pot from the heat and add the grated cheese. Note: the pasta will take longer to cook than what the package instructions say when cooking in this manner.
- Taste test and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve the pasta e piselli in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and more grated Pecorino Romano and enjoy!
- Equipment. Because of the amount of pasta, peas, and pasta water needed for the dish, a large pot or Dutch oven is best.
- Peas. We prefer frozen peas for this recipe because they’re almost always in our freezer and they taste great. If you prefer to use canned peas, you can, but be sure to drain and rinse them first. Fresh peas are a great option, and we use them in our rigatoni primavera, but they may require additional cooking time. They are of course harder to find and get a bit away from the tradition of this pantry pasta.
- Consistency. Smash the peas to your liking. We smash a few but do prefer the peas intact for our pasta e piselli. Also, if you want a soupier consistency, add more water as needed.
- Additions. Many people add pancetta to their pasta e piselli, which is a great addition. Garlic, anchovies, and fresh parsley would also be great. If you prefer Parmigiano to Pecorino, you can substitute that as well.
More pantry pastas you’ll love
- Pasta e ceci – pasta with chickpeas
- Pasta e fagioli – pancetta, pasta, and beans.
- Linguine aglio e olio – pasta, garlic, and oil.
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Pasta e Piselli
- 1 pound ditalini or other small shape pasta
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cups water plus more to thin
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1 pound frozen peas
- 1 cup Pecorino Romano grated
- pepper to taste
- Heat a large pot or pan to a touch less than medium heat and add the olive oil and onions. Cook the onions until soft (about 5-7 minutes), then add the red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the water, salt, and peas and bring to a boil. Once boiling, mash some of the peas with a wooden spoon.
- Add the pasta and turn the heat down to medium. Cook the pasta at a moderate simmer until al dente. Make sure to stir frequently to avoid sticking and add more water if the pot begins to dry out.
- When satisfied with the consistency and the pasta has reached al dente, remove the pot from the heat and mix in the cheese. Taste test and season with salt and pepper. If the pasta is at all dry, add extra water to loosen it up.
- Serve in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano. Enjoy!
- Any smallish pasta (small shells, elbows, orecchiette, etc.) works well.
- Make sure to stir very frequently and add more water as required to avoid sticking.
- Note - Some people prefer this dish on the soupier side. If you do, just use extra water.
- Garlic, fresh herbs, pancetta, anchovies, and a variety of other ingredients can be used to enhance this classic recipe.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
This recipe was originally published on September 5, 2019. It was completely updated on April 6, 2023.