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 42 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!

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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!

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 standard recipe.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.

Nutrition

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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78 Comments

  1. Laura Anne Behr says:

    I made this recipe before and I thought using a whole pound of small shells was alittle too much pasta. It came out somewhat dry. I’m. Going to try this recipe again tonight, I only have canned peas though. So I’ll just add them in at the last minute, is that ok?

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Laura, Jim hasn’t test the recipe with canned peas but you definitely can. If the pasta is at all dry, add a touch more water to loosen it back up.

  2. Loretta A Nash says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made this dish several times and it’s so delicious and easy!! My 3YO granddaughter and British mother live it, as long as I’m light on the red pepper flakes and garlic (which I add later to MY tastes 😋😋). Thank you SO much!!

    1. James says:

      Hi Loretta, thanks for the comment and so happy you and your family enjoyed this one a few times!

  3. Cleve says:

    For clarification: Does 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated mean you are calling for 6 oz. by weight then grated or grate enough cheese that will take up 3/4 cup in a measuring cup? I found that grating 6 oz. of the cheese would come up *way* past the 3/4 cup line when measured that way.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Cleve, it would be enough to fill a 3/4 cup measuring cup, or 90 grams. That’s equivalent to about 3 ounces.

  4. Sherri says:

    5 stars
    My 95 year old mom used to make this dish on Fridays (we never ate meat on Fridays throughout the year). I love this recipe brings back great memories

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Sherri, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed the recipe. This is a great one for Friday nights!

  5. Loretta A Nash says:

    5 stars
    Just DELICIOUS!! I threw in some fresh basil and walnuts, just because I had them. This recipe is a KEEPER! And I’d never heard of it before!

    1. James says:

      Hi Loretta, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed!

  6. Sandra Boyles says:

    5 stars
    So good!!!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Sandray, I’m so happy you enjoyed and really appreciate the comment!

      1. Patty says:

        Love all your recipes nice and easy and delicious. Thank you

        1. Tara says:

          Hi Patty, we’re so happy you’re enjoying the recipes. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Matt says:

    5 stars
    I absolutely love this recipe. It is literally so relaxing to cook I can’t even explain how much I love cooking this recipe.

    I want to try and add some ground beef to this to get some more protein in. When do you recommend adding it in? At the beginning with the onions? Or should I cook it on the side then add it in at the end?

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Matt, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed the recipe. You can cook the ground beef first if you want and then remove until you’re ready to add it back at the end. Hope you enjoy it that way!

  8. Jack says:

    5 stars
    Another winner here, Jim. Even my older teenage daughter, who has historically “hated peas”, downed two bowls and didn’t even mention them!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Jack, thanks for the comment and so happy you and your daughter enjoyed this one!

  9. Shelby says:

    5 stars
    This is honestly the BEST kind of recipe. Truly one pot, minimal ingredients, took me about a half hour to make, and turns out delicious every time. As a girl who lives on a pretty small budget, I really appreciate recipes like this. It’s SO good, tastes great as leftovers, and doesn’t cost much at all to make. It’s even good with canned peas instead of frozen if you want to cut costs even more (just add them at the VERY end instead of with the pasta) and makes it almost a completely pantry friendly meal (minus the cheese). I also will say that even without the highest quality cheese (I’ve used just a $5 Kroger brand wedge, and also just some pre shredded parmesan ((I knowwww, shredded isn’t good but it worked for me haha))) it was still a very very good meal. Thank you Jim and and your wonderful family for sharing this with the rest of us! <3

    TRY THIS RECIPE.

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Shelby, I really appreciate this comment. I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe, and thank you!

  10. Leslie says:

    My first recipe i tried. LOVE IT. My y son, daughter in law and granddaughter are going to try . They are vegans , it is an easy recipe to make vegan. Love your videos especially your adorable taste testers!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Leslie, I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe and really appreciate the comment!