Pasta and peas in red sauce is a dish that’s perfect for when you want something quick and easy. With just a handful of simple ingredients, this comforting pantry pasta can be ready in about 30 minutes.
Pasta and peas in red sauce is a dish I grew up eating and still make today for my family.
Much like its cousin, pasta e piselli in white sauce, it’s easy to make and since it uses pantry (or freezer) ingredients, it’s something that can pretty much be made at any time.
Tiny pasta, tomato paste, an onion, and some frozen peas are the main ingredients and although simple, the dish itself is incredibly comforting!
We serve our pasta al sugo con piselli with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano, and if we’ve got bread on hand, we’ll turn it into garlic bread.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Dice one large onion and grate 3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Heat a large pot or pan to medium heat and add a 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are soft, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional if you don’t like spice) and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once boiling, add 1 pound of ditalini or tubetti pasta and 12 ounces of frozen peas and turn the heat down to medium.
- Cook the pasta at a moderate simmer until it is al dente (should take around 12 minutes). Make sure to stir frequently to avoid sticking and add more water if the pasta begins to dry out.
- Once you’re satisfied with the consistency, remove the pot from the heat and add the grated Pecorino.
- Taste test and if needed, adjust salt and pepper to taste. If the pasta is at all dry, add a touch of water to loosen it up. Serve in bowls with extra virgin olive oil and plenty of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Enjoy!
Top tips for pasta and peas in red sauce
- Pasta. I love using ditalini (also known as tubetti) for this recipe but any small pasta, such as elbows, farfalline, or small shells would work well.
- Hands-on. Since the pasta is being cooked in the sauce, it’s important to stir the pasta frequently to prevent it from sticking and to add water when needed. While this is a hands-on dish, it’s also really easy and comes together quickly. Why cook the pasta in the sauce? More flavor of course. You are penetrating the pasta with the delicious sweetness of the peas, onions, and tomato broth. Basically, the same technique that’s used when cooking pasta e fagioli. Of course, you can boil the pasta separately if you like, but if doing so, reduce the amount of water.
- Consistency. Some people like their pasta with peas to be on the soupier side. If you’re one of those people, simply add more water until it reaches the consistency you like. The added cheese at the end will absorb some of the liquid so be prepared to add a touch more water at that point as well.
- Substitutions and additions. Pantry pastas such as this one are usually pretty flexible and meant to be adjusted based on what’s in your pantry or fridge. Some great additions could include garlic, fresh parsley, anchovy, or tuna.
More pantry meals
As a busy family, we get that weeknights are tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a great meal! Here are a few of our favorite weeknight pantry go-tos.
- Pasta e ceci – pasta with chickpeas in a simple tomato broth.
- Pasta al tonno – oil-packed tuna, olives, capers, and pasta in a tomato sauce.
- Pasta e patate – pasta, potatoes, pancetta, garlic, onion, and tomato paste.
- Italian lentil soup – the simplest soup with pantry staples.
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Pasta and Peas in Red Sauce
- 1 pound ditalini or tubetti
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 4 cups water plus more to thin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 12 ounces frozen peas
- 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated
- Heat a large pot or pan to 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.
- Next, add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the pasta and peas 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 standard 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.