Once my girls were babies and had graduated from pastina to small pasta shapes, this was one of the first meals I prepared for them. A nostalgic favorite, it is essentially just Piselli alla Pugliese | Italian Style Peas tossed with a short pasta. Traditionally, I would make this with ditalini pasta, but for whatever reason, my kids love elbows, so this is how I normally make it.
If you saw my refrigerator directly after I’ve been food shopping, you’d note that it is packed to the brim with fresh produce and fruit. And yet, at the end of the week, I’m always shocked at how much we’ve gone through! I always stockpile frozen peas because they are inexpensive, flash frozen to preserve nutrients, and ensure that I always have a healthy option for dinner, even as we near the end of the week.
This dish, like all the others that originate from cucina povera, is incredibly economical. The cost of a bag of frozen peas is about 2 dollars at our local grocer and a half pound of pasta comes in about 1 dollar. Considering the onion and oil, this dish comes in at under a dollar a serving. Cucina povera means, literally, “poor kitchen”, and so meals such as these are meant to be both filling and nutritious. Peas are a legume and they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The olive oil provides a healthy fat and helps to break down the carbohydrates of the pasta. The pasta, of course, the favored grain of Italian cuisine, is meant to add a heartiness to the dish so that those eating it remain full long after they’ve eaten.
Needless to say, my mother prepared this dish often for my brother and I growing up, ever conscious of our grocery bills and expenses. Of course we didn’t know, at the time, why dishes like this one frequented the dinner table, we just knew we loved it, and were happy to enjoy it far beyond the childhood years. And now, I love to hear my daughters ask their Nonna, “can you make pasta with peas, please?”
Pasta e Piselli | Pasta with Peas
- 1/2 lb elbow pasta (or any short pasta)
- 1 bag (12 ounces) frozen peas
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large shallot, sliced thinly
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Red Pepper Flakes to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously.
- While the water comes a boil, in a medium saucepan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and as many red pepper flakes as you desire and heat through, about a minute.
- Add your shallots and saute until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the frozen peas and salt, and toss to combine. Add the water and stir once more before covering the pot and allowing the peas to cook until tender, for 15-20 minutes.
- When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Lower the flame to a low setting, and add the peas and cooking liquid to the pasta and toss. Add the remaining olive oil, toss, and allow the flavors to combine for about two minutes. Taste add additional salt if necessary.
- Plate and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.