Stewed Pea Pasta Recipe Makes a Sumptuously Flavorful Dish

Spaghetti with smothered peas

Total time:45 minutes

Servings:4 to 5

Total time:45 minutes

Servings:4 to 5

It was so ingrained in me to cook peas on low, until they were green and just tender, that it was almost taboo to simmer them so far beyond that point when I tried it. for the first time. But I stayed the course, because I knew what it took to capture the essence of the dishes I enjoyed in Italy when I visited several years ago at the height of pea season.

These 7 recipes show peas at their best in the spring

Yes, bright green peas appeared occasionally in the dishes I had there, but I was surprised by how the norm in the homes and trattorias I visited was to cook the vegetable until it was ultra-sweet and olive green, until it started to break down and developed a deeper sweetness with a robust salty dimension. Cooking the peas this way gave them a more comforting appeal, very much in keeping with the way vegetables are “smothered” in southern American cooking. Their taste reminded me of how my mother used to serve cooked peas when I was growing up, which I’m guilty of blaming her for being old-fashioned. (Sorry, Mom.) It took that trip to Italy to realize that I absolutely love them that old-fashioned way.

In this dish, peas (fresh or frozen) are simmered in broth with sautéed onions and crushed whole garlic cloves until the vegetable is very soft and a deeper green hue. With the help of a spoon that mashes them up a bit as they cook, they gradually turn into a sumptuously savory pea sauce for pasta. Once the garlic has cooked into the sauce and released a good amount of its flavor, I like to pluck it out for later use in salad dressing or to spread on toast. But if you want the sauce to be more garlicky, feel free to crush the cloves in it. Add the slightly undercooked pasta – I use whole grains, but regular pasta is fine too – to the pan with a little starchy cooking water to loosen the sauce, and toss everything together in the pan until pasta is al dente and well coated.

Served with ribbons of basil and a drizzle of strong Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan, if you prefer), this delicious spring meal will open your eyes to a new way of cooking peas that has been around for generations.

Do you want to save this recipe? Click the bookmark icon under the serving size at the top of this page, then navigate to My Reading List in your washingtonpost.com user profile.

Evolve this recipe and get a printable desktop version here.

  • 3/4 tsp fine salt, divided, plus more as needed
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 large sweet onion (6 ounces total), diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 pound fresh shelled tender peas or frozen peas (3 3/4 cups; no need to thaw if frozen)
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 12 ounces spaghetti, preferably whole grain
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season to taste with salt, if desired.

In a large, high-sided skillet over medium-low heat, heat 3 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and lightly browned but not brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add peas, broth, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and mashing some of the peas as you stir to thicken the broth, until the peas are very soft, crumble a little and take on a darker shade of green, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves from the pan and set aside for another use, such as adding it to a vinaigrette or spreading it on bread.

When peas have cooked for 15 minutes, add pasta to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes less than package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the peas. (If the peas are ready before the pasta, remove them from the heat and set aside until the pasta is cooked.)

Return the heat under the skillet to medium-high and, using tongs, toss the pasta with the peas to combine. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and enough pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, to soften the sauce to your desired consistency. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of each salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes.

Divide into shallow bowls, top each bowl with cheese and basil, season with additional salt and/or pepper, if desired, and serve.

Per serving (1 1/2 cups), based on 5

Calories: 480; Total fat: 17g; Saturated fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 4mg; Sodium: 493mg; Carbohydrates: 69g; Dietary fiber: 13g; Sugar: 10g; Protein: 16g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

From cookbook author and licensed nutritionist Ellie Krieger.

Tested by Olga Massov; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

Evolve this recipe and get a printable desktop version here.

Browse our recipe finder for over 9,700 post-tested recipes.

Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and tag us on Instagram with #eatingvoraciously.