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.

Closeup shot of blue and white bowl with pasta e piselli.

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!  

Ingredients shown: olive oil, onion, Pecorino Romano, ditalini pasta, hot red pepper flakes, and frozen peas.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Dice one large onion and grate 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese.  

Pasta e piselli recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. 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.
  2. Add 1 pound of ditalini (or other small pasta) and turn the heat down to medium.  

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Recipe process shot collage group number four.

  1. 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!

Large wooden ladle holding pasta e piselli over Dutch oven.

Top tips

  • 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.

Bowl of pasta e piselli with spoonful held above the bowl.

More pantry pastas you’ll love

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Pasta e Piselli

4.99 from 52 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Pasta e piselli is a simple comforting dish made with just a few ingredients. Tiny pasta is simmered with sweet peas and onions until al dente and finished with grated Pecorino cheese and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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!

Notes

  • 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

Calories: 805kcal | Carbohydrates: 105.1g | Protein: 28.6g | Fat: 33.1g | Saturated Fat: 7.3g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 240mg | Potassium: 340mg | Fiber: 10.7g | Sugar: 12.2g | Calcium: 262mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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This recipe was originally published on September 5, 2019. It was completely updated on April 6, 2023.

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73 Comments

  1. Brenda Stimac says:

    Read through all the comments does this freeze well? If I make it, let it come to room temperature and put it in freezing containers. Will that be OK?

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Brenda, you could freeze it, but it will be much better made fresh. My concern is that the pasta will be too mushy when reheated.

      1. Dot says:

        Are the calories per recipe or servings? How many servings are in this recipe?

        1. Tara says:

          Hi Dot, the recipe card is written for 4 servings and the nutritional information is per serving.

  2. Lisa McCrea says:

    5 stars
    Looks great, my mom and grandmother always made it with the red sauce and water. I actually never made it with just Water. My question is, where does the flavor come from? Because you’re not putting broth in it, so I was just wondering.

  3. Fran says:

    5 stars
    Jim, I love your recipes they remind me of my grandmother way of cooking. She was from Naples. She was a great cook. Everything she cooked was delicious. You’re such a young man. How did you learn to cook the old dishes. you’re right the cooking is basic and simple. I also love the way you prepare your ingredients to inform us I just love you that’s all what else could I say you’re great and I love it when your son rates the recipes. You have a lovely family. God bless you by the way I’m 91 and remember how my grandmother cooked

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Fran, thank you so much for the great comment. We appreciate you following along with us and we’re so happy you are enjoying the recipes!

  4. Michael Leyland says:

    5 stars
    So easy, simple and delicious! Real comfort food! I used Orecchiette with mine. The peas fit right in the little ears.😁Thanks!

  5. Mark says:

    4 stars
    We’re getting our 1st winter storm here in Chicago, so making this dish came to mind as a good way to fight the cold. I had most of the ingredients in my pantry. It’s tasty and easy to make. Next time I’d add more pepper flakes and maybe some of the extras mentioned in the Notes.

    I’ll make this again.

  6. Barbara Curcio says:

    5 stars
    Quick, easy, delicious! Sometimes I add ham or pancetta. I just tried sautéing some chopped sweet peppers and added to onions and it was terrific. Great recipe

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Barbara, we’re so happy you enjoyed and thanks for the comment!

  7. josh covey says:

    5 stars
    Just wanted to say hello to your family. Im rarly new here. I love your recipes and yalls personalitys are so amazing. I love watching cook channels but u guys bring alot to the table. I can actually watch your cooking and be entertained at the same time. If that makes since. Thank u guys im also dealing with some real life struggles. U help me in more ways than one so again thank u so much. 🙂

    1. James says:

      Hi Josh, thanks for the message and we’re so happy you’re enjoying the channel and recipes. All the best to you!

  8. Tomaso Pagano says:

    5 stars
    Jim, when I was growing up my mom made a simple pasta Fazoul with cannellini beans on the soupy side . Simply a little olive oil and garlic, chicken stock , Ditalini pasta , some canned tomatoes crushed(just enough to make the broth soupy red).
    But my favorite was to substitute the peas for the beans . And we called it pasta Piselli.

    1. James says:

      Hi Tomaso, thanks for the comment and your moms recipe sounds great!