What was my favorite childhood dish you ask? Without hesitation it was Pasta e Peas! As a child, I naturally thought that Pasta e Peas was Calabrese, something typical of the south; however almost every region in Italy has a pasta or rice piatto with peas. Some preparations are more of a minestra or soup, while others are considered a pasta.
Pasta e Piselli can be prepared at a moments notice, the ingredient list is simple and can be kept on hand at all times. Any short tubular pasta such as tubetti or ditali, as well as conghigliette, or even broken spaghetti can be used. My family’s rendition is meatless, often however you will find preparations that include sautéing diced pancetta along with the onion. The distinctive flavor of this dish is developed in stages by following the basic steps outlined in the recipe. I rarely use anything but fresh ingredients, however frozen peas are an excellent product and should be considered whenever peas are called for. The sautéing of the chopped onion, seasoned simply with salt and pepper during the early stage of the cooking process creates the foundation. Adding some of the pasta cooking liquid gives the dish a more fluid body; depending upon how much is added Paste e Piselli becomes a soup. Chopped Italian parsley brings an element of freshness which pairs nicely with the peas. Fresh mint can substituted or combined with the parsley. If using fresh mint add at the last stage as chopped mint tends to discolor.
- 1 medium sized onion chopped
- 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. frozen peas, defrosted
- 1 lb. dried short pasta
- Kosher salt
- 1½ cup Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium sized heavy sauce pan over medium heat, I use a Le Creuset. Add the chopped onions, allow the onions to cook in the sauce pan for 5 minutes without stirring, season with salt & pepper, and stir. Continue to cook the onions until lightly golden brown, stirring as needed so the onions brown evenly. The entire process should take about 15 minutes, but may vary depending upon the pan and level of the flame on your stovetop.
- Once the onions are ready, turn off the heat and add the defrosted peas, stirring well with the seasoned onions to incorporate the flavors. This can be done earlier in the day and set aside or refrigerated for the next day. If refrigerating, take out before the final step and warm lightly.
- Bring 6 quarts of cold water to a boil, salt the water, add the pasta and stir well. Adjust the cooking time recommended on the box as you want the pasta to be al dente, almost a bit undercooked. The pasta will cook further once added to the peas; for example if the directions recommend 10 minutes, I suggest a cooking time of 7 minutes.
- If draining the pasta into a strainer placed in your sink, reserve about 2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and add to the warm pea & onion mixture, stirring well to incorporate. Add a bit of the pasta water to loosen up the dish, season with about ½ cup of the chopped parsley. Stir well to combine, add more pasta liquid to your taste.
- Serve immediately, passing the reserved chopped parsley to serve as a garnish table side. The pasta may be reheated the next day.