Pasta e piselli

Pasta e piselli (Pasta and Peas)

In pasta, primi piatti by Frank26 Comments

Here’s a when-you-really-don’t-feel-like-cooking dish. It’s a quick and easy combination of pasta and peas, but really satisfying. Pasta e piselli and pasta e lenticchie were my favorite everyday pastas Angelina would make when I was a kid. Here’s the way she made it:

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • A sprig or two of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • One small can of peas (15oz/425g)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) ditali or other stubby pasta

Directions

You sauté chopped onion—with a little chopped parsley if you like—in olive oil, seasoning with a salt and generous amount of pepper. Let it go, adding a tablespoon or so of water from time to time to soften the onions and avoid their browning, until they are quite soft and their sweetness has developed nicely.

Then add a can of peas with its juice. (NB: This is the only time I ever use the juice from a canned product!) Let the peas simmer gently, just long enough to heat the peas.

Separately, boil ditali or another small, stubby pasta (see Notes below) in well salted water and then add to the peas. Allow them to simmer together for just a minute, adding a bit of pasta water if the pasta is too dry for your taste, then leave off heat, covered, for two minutes or so, to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve with additional freshly ground pepper, if you like, and un filo d’olio. Et voila!

Notes

The above is the quick and easy method. For a dish that is more genuino as they say in Italian, use fresh peas. You add the shelled peas to the onion soffritto, saute for a minute or two to allow the peas to absorb the flavor, then add enough broth or water just to cover the peas. Simmer until the peas are tender and proceed as indicated in the main recipe. You can also use frozen peas in the same way, which are convenient but greener and sweeter than the canned variety.

Some variations. The foregoing recipe is the one I grew up with in an Italian-American family. In Italy, it is more common to use either fresh or frozen peas, to which either broth or water is added, rather than canned peas and their canning liquid.

The dish I grew up with had no meat and no tomato–in bianco as they say in Italian. But a lot of people add bits of pancetta (Italian bacon) or cooked ham to saute along with the onions. And some people also like to add a bit of tomato after the onion and/or pancetta and/or parsley have sauteed, for a bit more color and taste. Allow the tomato to reduce before adding your peas, and proceed as indicated in the main recipe. I have also seen recipes calling for you to use shallot (scalogno) instead of onion. You can also vary the amount of onion. I use lots of onion—a whole smallish onion for two people—which adds considerable sweetness. If you are using really fresh, young, sweet peas, you may need less onion. (I have also seen recipes calling for the addition of a pinch of sugar to add sweetness, but personally the idea does not attract me.) Finally, some people like their pasta e piselli dry (in which case, leave out the liquid or use much less). I grew up with a rather wet pasta, almost a soup, and I like it that way. (This is one pasta, by the way, that you are better off eating with a spoon.) Some people, in fact, like to squash some of the peas against the side of the pan as they cook, to thicken the broth and make it creamier. I always ate my pasta e piselli with lots of freshly ground pepper; I really like the contrast between the sweetness of the onion and peas and the spiciness of the pepper—but this is not necessary if you don’t care for pepper. I’ve seen recipes calling for a dusting of parmesan cheese as well, but this stikes me a slightly sacrilegious.

The choice of pasta is important here. The original and–to my taste—by far the best choice are a very small tubular pasta called ditali, ditalini or tubetti. (NB: This is one of the many examples of basically the same shape of pasta having multiple names according to region.) Also a very good choice are the tiny shell-shape pasta called chioccioline or conchigliette which some say is even better because they concave surface catches the peas. Some people even use spaghetti or linguine broken up into short lengths for their pasta e piselli. (That’s how my grandmother made pasta e lenticchie, but never this dish.) Why not experiment with different pastas to see which one you like best. As they say, “variety is the spice of life.”

Pasta e piselli (Pasta and Peas)

Rating: 51

Total Time: 30 minutes

Pasta e piselli (Pasta and Peas)

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • A sprig or two of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • One small can of peas (15oz/425g)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) ditali or other stubby pasta

Directions

  1. You sauté chopped onion—with a little chopped parsley if you like—in olive oil, seasoning with a salt and generous amount of pepper. Let it go, adding a tablespoon or so of water from time to time to soften the onions and avoid their browning, until they are quite soft and their sweetness has developed nicely.
  2. Then add a can of peas with its juice. (NB: This is the only time I ever use the juice from a canned product!) Let the peas simmer gently, just long enough to heat the peas.
  3. Separately, boil ditali or another small, stubby pasta (see Notes below) in well salted water and then add to the peas. Allow them to simmer together for just a minute, adding a bit of pasta water if the pasta is too dry for your taste, then leave off heat, covered, for two minutes or so, to allow the flavors to meld.
  4. Serve with additional freshly ground pepper, if you like, and un filo d'olio. Et voila!
http://memoriediangelina.com/2009/10/30/pasta-e-piselli/

Comments

  1. My daughter loves pasta and peas, my grandmother made this dish and I loved it. Iam 100% Italian and this receipe is amazing! Thank you sooo much

  2. I absolutely love this dish. My mother made this for us all the time. It’s a one dish meal because I eat so much of it I do not have room for anything else.

    Lucille Manno

  3. Terrific looks like the dish my mom made weekly on Wednesday nights when I was a young boy.

    Just one note is it possible that she added iceberg lettuce this exact recipe above?

    I will make it for my family now.

    1. Author

      Why not? —lettuce and peas are a very common combination, although I haven’t come across it before in Italian or Italian-American cooking.

  4. Pingback: Peas and Eggs (Piselli cacio e uova) | Memorie di Angelina

  5. Love this dish when I was a child. My Aunt Connie gave me the recipe. The only difference is she added a small can of tomato sauce, and she like you, used the water from the peas. Thanks for the proportions I neglected to write them down!

  6. Thanks for this recipe. My mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid. I just had a hunger for it but wasn’t exactly sure how she actually made it. As soon as I saw the picture, I thought “That’s it!” I am making it tonight.

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  8. i ditto anonymous. This brings me back to the olden days of simple but delicious cooking. Good job.Please stay on this site!!!!

  9. Pingback: Italian Food Culture: A primer

  10. I make this all the time, but I don’t use the can from the peas. I just add water. I don’t trust all the additives. I rinse the peas before I add them in or I use frozen peas. Works just as well and is very tasty.

  11. Fahem Murshéz: Can I please have the full recipe for this amazing dish?! I'm Italian but I never EVER seen Paste E Piselli before. Can I have the accurate recipe with the quantity and methods? Thanks. And god bless Angeline and you! 😀

  12. @Fran: Sure, as mentioned in the post (see the Notes section) adding pancetta is a very common way to do it, and I'm sure it adds nice flavor! In my family, though, this was a strictly vegetarian dish, so that's how I usually make it, too.

  13. Great recipes, but in my childhood memories pasta e piselli included a little pancetta… What do you think about this?

  14. Big Bill Said: My 21 year old son made this for me last night and it was AWESOME! It transported me back to my Italian grandmothers table back in the 60's! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  15. Big Bill Said: My 21 year old son made this for me last night and it was AWESOME! It transported me back to my Italian grandmothers table back in the 60's! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  16. This is how we ate ours also. No meat and maybe a jar of homemade tomatoes if they were put up fresh from the summer. I also remember eating a lot of pasta e asparagi when the asparagus was in season.

  17. I saw a recipe similar to this one on youtube and she added a little tomato sauce too. I liked how simple and easy it was to make.Great tips and I have to remember not to use some grated parmesan on this too :)Delicious post!

  18. I cannot believe it, this is the first time I discovered an Italian
    person who grew up with this dish
    exactly the way my mother made it… EXACTLY!!!!…..White, canned juice from peas and lots of regular onions and small pasta shells….I
    am amazed and it was delicious.

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