Peas Pasta Ham and Cream

Peas, Pasta, Ham and Cream. Sigh. I have made this so many times I have been dreading to write about it. I have to write about it though, because I can make it with my eyes closed. Also I always have all these ingredients on hand. Even the cream (or rather especially the cream). And my kids, dare I say all kids, like Peas Pasta Ham and Cream.

Once, there was an actual recipe that I followed in Marcella Hazan’s Marcella Cucina. In fact the first time I made this, we made the handmade garganelli (a homemade hand formed macaroni) as she recommended, used gorgeous leftover Christmas ham and ate it the day after Christmas with a really good Pinot.

Times have changed and the method has morphed accordingly. What we have now is a down and dirty last minute preparation that you can get on the table in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. I don’t think my fast version has lost too much credibility. Ok, it doesn’t have the carefully crafted (seemingly!) simple luxury of that post-Christmas meal of 12 years ago, but everybody likes this dish. At least at our house. And my sister’s house. In fact, I believe it was after I showed my sister how to make this that she said “You need to start a blog. I need more recipes like this and so do all my friends.”

Oh – and another thing: in my version you’ll only need one pot. So nice.

Peas Pasta Ham and Cream

This is a great dish to offer the sort of kids who only want to eat pasta with butter – it’s a kind of gateway dish to something more exotic.

It’s a good idea to keep frozen Petit Peas in the freezer at all times.

For an older baby, you can make this with orzo.

Asparagus makes a good variation – use the pencil thin variety and cut them into small pieces – add to the pasta water just as you would add the peas.

  • 3/4 lb pasta – any type will do but I like pipe rigate because the little pipes catch peas like crazy so kids are less likely to leave all the peas on the plate
  • 1 c. frozen petite peas – the regular kind are too mealy
  • 3/4 – 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced ham (I like a Breton style ham. I might avoid a heavily smoked one. If you can get it, prosciutto cotto would be perfect)
  • Reggiano Parmesan (you could also use grana padano but do NOT use anything called cheese that comes out of a green tube –  that would be weird and wrong)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground (I prefer coarsely) black pepper
  1. Start a large saucepan of water, full to almost an inch away from the rim, over hight heat
  2. When the water is boiling add 2 tsp of salt and then the pasta. Stir thoroughly  – this isn’t really quite enough water to ensure that the pasta wont stick to itself. So stir it a couple of times as it cooks. Set the timer for 3 minutes less than it takes to cook the pasta.
  3. If you haven’t already, slice the ham cut into 1/4 inch ribbons and grate 3/4 cup of cheese plus more for serving. (I think the beauty of this dish is that the pasta cooking time is just the right amount of time to do slicing and grating)
  4. When the timer goes off, add the peas and set the timer for 3 minutes.
  5. Drain the peas and pasta in the colander and give them a good shake to get the excess water off.  Return them to the saucepan.
  6. Add the cream and turn up the heat, getting it to simmer and stirring all the time. Stir for 2 minutes or so until the cream coats the pasta and has thickened slightly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and toss in the 3/4 c. grated Parmesan and the ham.
  7. Grind some black pepper and sprinkle some sea salt over the top. Stir and taste, adjusting the seasoning as necessary – you may want more cheese, more pepper, who knows?
  8. Serve with a bowl of grated Parmesan on the side.

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