Recipe adapted from one found in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the traditional Italian dish Pasta e Piselli, like its better-known cousins pasta e fagioli and pasta e ceci, combines peas with small pasta to form a hearty soup; all of which come together in one pot. Always a plus for a weeknight meal.
The pasta is cooked in a broth flavored with sautéed onion and savory pancetta, simultaneously infusing the pasta with savoriness and thickening the rich, silky broth. As well as using homemade chicken stock, we doubled the pancetta to four ounces, both of which provided more depth of flavor.
At the end of the cooking process, frozen petite peas (sweeter and less starchy than fresh peas), are added—in our case it was 2 cups as opposed to 1 1⁄2 cups because that was the contents of the bag. Immediately afterward, the pot is taken off the heat to preserve their tenderness and bright green color.
A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano contributes richness and tangy depth. Last-minute additions of minced herbs and extra-virgin olive oil punch up the aroma and flavors of the dish. You can substitute small pasta such as tubetti, ditali, elbow macaroni, or small shells for the ditalini, but do so by weight, not by volume.
TIP: For a vegetarian version, omit the pancetta, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and add an extra 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Pecorino Romano adds a welcome sharpness. Cook’s Illustrated does not recommend substituting Parmesan in this recipe.
Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas)
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 4 oz. pancetta, chopped fine
- ½ tsp. table salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 2½ cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 2½ cups water
- 7½ oz. (1½ cups) ditalini
- 1½ to 2 cups frozen petite peas
- ⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint
- Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, pancetta, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add broth and water and bring to boil over high heat. Stir in pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid returns to boil. Reduce heat to maintain simmer; cover; and cook until pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in peas and remove saucepan from heat. Stir in parsley, Pecorino, and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling with extra oil and passing extra Pecorino separately.
Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated