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 with red sauce in white bowl with block of Pecorino Romano in the background.


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.

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

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Dice one large onion and grate 3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese.

Pasta and peas in red sauce recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. 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.
  2. Add 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Add 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and bring the mixture to a boil. 
  2. Once boiling, add 1 pound of ditalini or tubetti pasta and 12 ounces of frozen peas and turn the heat down to medium.  

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. 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. 
  2. Once you’re satisfied with the consistency, remove the pot from the heat and add the grated Pecorino.

Recipe process shot collage group number four.

  1. 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!

Overhead shot of pasta and peas rosso in large pan.

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.

Pasta and peas in red sauce in white bowl with large spoon and piece of bread.

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. 

If you’ve enjoyed this pasta and peas in red sauce recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

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Pasta and Peas in Red Sauce

5 from 25 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Pasta and peas in red sauce is a super simple pantry pasta with onion, tomato paste, tubetti pasta, frozen peas and Pecorino Romano. This pasta is perfect for weeknights because it can be ready in about 30 minutes!


  • 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.


Calories: 820kcal | Carbohydrates: 115.7g | Protein: 27.2g | Fat: 31.6g | Saturated Fat: 6.2g | Sodium: 273mg | Potassium: 903mg | Fiber: 12.8g | Sugar: 18g | Calcium: 217mg | Iron: 8mg

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

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  1. 5 stars
    Made this the other night and was utterly delighted by the result. It was super easy to make and the final result far outstripped the effort that was put in! Yes, it’s a relatively inexpensive dish and vegetarian. But so tasty! The trick here is cooking the pasta in the “sauce” because you get all the starch that makes this creamy without any actual milk or cream or butter! Thanks for this recipe, definitely going in my standard rotation. The flavors play beautifully together. I *almost* added garlic, but heeded your advice and kept it out and was so glad I did. The sweetness of the peas and onions complements the bite of the tomato sauce perfectly. And that little bit of cheese is just what ties it all together. Thank you for another winner.

    I confess, if I’m feeling in a fancy mood, may jazz this up at times by adding some pancetta and maybe even using a bit of wine to deglaze/add richness, but that’s totally me just being extra. This recipe does not need any of that and is perfect as is. Thanks Jim and Tara!

    1. Hi James, we’re so happy you enjoyed the pasta and peas! Adding some pancetta and wine sounds amazing!

  2. 5 stars
    Growing up I have always had the white sauce version. I love it with the red sauce just as much! It was a cold and rainy day and I had all the ingredients in the pantry. This hit the spot! Keep up the good work, love watching the videos.

    1. Hi Marianna, thanks for the comment and I’m so happy you enjoyed this one. I agree, this is perfect for a cold and rainy day!

  3. 5 stars
    This was SO good and so simple. A nice meal for if you’ve gotta feed several people and don’t want to spend several hours in the kitchen. The combo of the somewhat acidic red sauce and the sweet peas, and the chewy pasta and creaminess of the sauce and cheese… comfort food at its finest!

  4. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe. Surprised tomato paste worked so well . I used green onions, garlic, and Le Sueur peas with the can’s liquid. This brand of peas was mentioned in Mrs. Scorsese’s cookbook. Another author who wrote the “ Pacific Social Club” also has a couple recipes using this brand.

  5. I’m going to make this and I have some anchovy paste I need to use up. Would it be good in this recipe and if so when would I add it, also should I thaw the peas first? Thanks love the channel!

    1. Hi Powell, The anchovy paste would be great. You can add it while sauteeing the onions. The peas don’t have to be thawed but either way is fine. Enjoy and thanks for liking the channel!