Pasta with Ham and Peas
Pasta with ham and peas is the perfect dish for when you want something quick, easy, and absolutely delicious. Not only is it bursting with flavor, but it comes together in 20 minutes using pantry and fridge staples making it a go-to recipe for busy weeknights.
About Pasta with Ham and Peas
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s so simple and quick, making it a great last-minute dinner idea.
I created this recipe because I wanted a quick and easy 20-minute dinner that used pantry staples, and was light as well as filling.
If you’ve ever had ham and pea pasta carbonara (or Pasta alla Papalina in Italian), this is a very similar but simplified dish, without the cream and eggs.
For this recipe, all you need is some pasta, ham, peas, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, creme fraiche and Parmesan cheese – ingredients many of us have lying around in our pantries and fridges.
The stars of this creamy ham and pea pasta are the frozen peas and ham!
Now hear me out — don’t underestimate the power of frozen sweet peas.
I love leaning on frozen peas in recipes for plant-based protein as well as adding a little bit of sweetness, crunchy texture, and pop of color.
The ham offers a delicious rich flavor and this recipe is the perfect opportunity to use leftover ham.
This is truly a surprisingly flavorful dish for how simple the prep and ingredient list are!
Visual Guide: How to Make Pasta with Ham and Peas
Tips & Tricks
As I mentioned, this recipe is a great way to use up leftover ham – simply cut the ham in 1-2 inch slices and then 1-2 inch cubes.
However you don’t have to wait until you have leftovers to make this dish.
You can ask for 4-5 2-inch slices of ham (about 1.5 pounds) at your deli counter and dice it at home.
Some stores may sell pre-diced ham,however that is not my preferred method, but it works in a pinch.
To save time and enhance the flavor, the recipe calls for crisping the diced ham in the pan first, which adds a depth of flavor and crispy texture without a lot of extra time.
The one ingredient you may not have on hand is creme fraiche, but that can easily be substituted with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or whipped cottage cheese.
To get this meal on the table fast and save on dishes, you’ll toss the pasta with pasta water in the same pan you cooked the ham.
While I think spaghetti or linguine works best to catch the sauce, feel free to use any pasta shape you like, whether that’s penne, corkscrew, or bowtie.
Finally, take this dish up a notch by topping it with fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, and/or lots of fresh ground black pepper.
Make It Gluten Free + Dairy Free
Use your favorite gluten free pasta to easily make this dish gluten free. For a dairy free version, replace the creme fraiche with dairy free ricotta or cream cheese, and the parmesan cheese with dairy free parmesan.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Pasta: I used linguine for this recipe because I like how well that pasta shape captures the creamy sauce. However, you can use your favorite pasta shape.
Olive oil: For sautéing, I love the light, buttery flavor of the olive oil in this recipe. But you can also use any other neutral flavored cooking oil in its place like avocado, vegetable or canola oil.
Ham: Use leftover ham or slices of ham from your deli. Dice into 1-2 inch cubes.
Garlic: I love the flavor fresh garlic adds to this pasta, but you could also try granulated garlic powder in its place.
Lemon juice: Since there are so few ingredients in this recipe, fresh lemon juice is definitely preferred over jarred or bottled.
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store. It has a subtler flavor. Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Creme fraiche: The key to this creamy pasta without using cream. You can substitute it with cream cheese, or whipped cottage cheese for added protein. Or use dairy free cream cheese or ricotta for a dairy free version.
Parmesan cheese: Try to use freshly grated parmesan if you can. For a dairy free version, use dairy free parmesan cheese.
Peas: Use fresh, or frozen defrosted.
How to Store & Freeze
Ham and pea pasta keep well in the fridge for up to [3-4 days], in a sealed container. To reheat, add a splash of water, broth, or milk to add some more liquid.
This Recipe is…
Pasta with Ham and Peas
- 1 pound pasta, such as fettuccine, spaghetti, penne, corkscrew or bowtie
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups small-diced ham
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoon creme fraiche, or cream cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups frozen-defrosted peas, or fresh sweet peas
Optional Serving Suggestions
- Finely chopped fresh parsley
- Red pepper flakes
- Bring a large pot of salted boiling to a strong boil. Add the pasta, stirring to avoid sticking. Cook until just under al dente, about 2-3 short of the package directions.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ham and saute until lightly crispy and browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the ham to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
- Turn the same skillet to low, add garlic and lemon zest and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice, and stir to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- When pasta is just under al dente, carefully remove ½ cup water and set aside, then drain the pasta.
- Turn the skillet heat up to medium, add the pasta, along with the pasta water, salt, and creme fraiche or cream cheese. Simmer on low for 1-2 minutes, or until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce.
- Add the ham, peas, and parmesan cheese, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes for the peas to warm through and the pasta to absorb the remaining sauce. Taste and add additional salt if desired.
- Serve immediately with additional parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and parsley if desired.