Pasta with Peas and Ham

$4.81 recipe / $1.20 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 7 votes
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Fast and easy meals are the only thing helping me survive this time of year (…or any time of year for that matter), and this super quick and creamy pasta with peas and ham was a total winner for me. It’s inspired by a classic Italian dish, Pasta alla Papalina, and follows my favorite “formula” for easy meals: pasta + butter + Parmesan + vegetable. This variation on that formula has a few extra ingredients to give it a rich finish, but it’s still just as fast and easy (hello, one pot)!

Overhead view of a pot full of pasta with peas and ham, a spoon in the side.

What is Pasta with Peas and Ham?

This super simple dish is based on a classic Italian dish, Pasta alla Papalina, which features fettuccine, cured ham, peas, and onions in a rich sauce made with cream and either Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese. For this budget interpretation, I used a diced ham steak, heavy cream, and grated Parmesan. It may not be as fancy, but it’s EASY (read no chopping!) and still super delicious.

Ingredients for Pasta with Peas and Ham

This recipe is super flexible, so here’s what I used to make my pasta with peas and ham with some possible substitutions listed for each item:

  • Pasta: I used ditalini (small short tubes) because we had it on hand and I thought the shape would be a good match for the green peas, but you can make this dish with literally any type of pasta you might have in your kitchen. It’s a great way to use up the odds and ends of boxes of pasta!
  • Sweet Peas: I used frozen sweet peas, but you can use fresh peas if you have them. Simply add the fresh peas to the boiling pasta water a few minutes earlier so they can cook with the pasta. You can also substitute the peas with another green vegetable like broccoli or spinach.
  • Ham: I used a simple ham steak from the grocery store that I diced up and browned in the pot for extra flavor. Ham steaks can usually be found in the refrigerated packaged meat section of the grocery store, near bacon. You could also use bacon, pancetta, or even a cured sausage for this dish.
  • Butter and Heavy Cream: Full-fat dairy is what makes this dish so scrumptious. I’ve made plenty of pasta dishes similar to this one with just butter, so that is an option if you don’t have the heavy cream, but I love the rich sauce that the cream creates.
  • Parmesan: Parmesan coats the pasta for a nice boost of nutty umami flavor. You can also use Pecorino Romano or another hard-aged cheese.
  • Salt and Pepper: I love the way salt and pepper sprinkled over the pasta at the end adds small pops of flavor to every bite. You can also add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want a little kick.

How Are the Leftovers?

Quick pasta dishes like this are definitely best when made fresh, and luckily they are easy enough to whip up even when you’re short on time. The creamy sauce will tend to absorb into the pasta as it refrigerated, so if you do reheat your leftovers you might want to add an extra splash of cream or milk to add some moisture back in.

Close up side view of a bowl of pasta with peas and ham.
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Pasta with Peas and Ham

5 from 7 votes
This recipe for pasta with peas and ham is a super fast and easy meal that will keep you full and satisfied on busy days!
Overhead view of a bowl full of pasta with peas and ham and a fork.
Servings 4 (about 1.5 cups each)
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. ditalini pasta* ($0.63)
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas ($0.38)
  • 8 oz. ham steak ($2.50)
  • 1 Tbsp salted butter ($0.11)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream ($0.75)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.40)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook just until tender. Add the frozen peas and continue to cook for one minute, then drain the pasta and peas in a colander.
  • While the pasta is cooking, dice the ham into small pieces. After draining the pasta and peas, add the diced ham and butter to the pot. Cook over medium, stirring often, until the ham has browned.
  • Add the drained pasta and peas back to the pot along with the heavy cream. Stir and heat over medium until the cream is hot, dissolving the browned bits off the bottom of the pot as you stir.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the pasta, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve.

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Notes

*You can use any type of pasta you prefer.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.25cupsCalories: 462kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 23gFat: 19gSodium: 1010mgFiber: 4g
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How to Make Pasta with Peas and Ham – Step by Step Photos

Cooked pasta and peas in a pot with a spoon lifting some out of the water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add 2 cups of ditalini pasta (or 8oz. of your favorite pasta shape) to the water and boil just until tender. Add 1 cup of frozen sweet peas to the water and continue to cook for one minute. Drain the pasta and peas in a colander.

Diced ham browned in the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, dice one 8oz. ham steak into small pieces. After draining the pasta and peas, add the diced ham to the pot along with 1 Tbsp butter. Cook the ham over medium heat until it is browned (3-5 minutes).

Pasta and cream added to the pot with the ham.

Add the drained pasta and peas to the pot with the ham, along with ½ cup heavy cream. Stir and heat the pasta and cream over medium, dissolving the browned bits off the bottom of the pot as you stir. Heat and stir just until the cream is hot.

Parmesan being sprinkled over the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle ¼ cup grated Parmesan over top. Stir to combine.

Salt and pepper added to the pasta.

Season the pasta with salt and pepper to taste (I used about ¼ tsp of each).

Close up of pasta with ham and peas in a spoon held over the pot.

And that’s it! Super easy peasy (pun intended) and delicious! Enjoy!

Overhead view of a bowl full of pasta with peas and ham and a fork.
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Comments

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  1. Very easy, quick recipe. When I see ham I think mustard, so I added some Dijon. Surprising how good this is with so few ingredients.

  2. I love the quick and easy recipes!!! Very simple and tasty… on a low budget 💕

  3. Very easy to make and came out delicious! I didn’t have cream on hand and didn’t want to use butter so I subbed by sprinkling flour over the sautéed ham (I also added onion) and stirred to form a roux with milk and it worked perfectly!! Doubled the Parm because… we love Parm :)

    1. Ooh thank you for this tip! I can’t eat dairy and couldn’t figure out a good alternative, but I’m gonna try this!

      1. Turned out great! I used flour for thickening, pea protein milk and vegan parm (Follow Your Heart brand), and this is a delicious, hearty and comforting dairy-free meal!

  4. Just used this recipe using leftover Christmas leg ham. So easy and tasty. Kids smashed it (1 & 6) without added pepper. We sprinkled with garlic/chilli/pepper to serve for adults. Total comfort food.

  5. Made this tonight, but made it with smoked sausage instead of ham. Didn’t measure out the pasta so I should’ve added more liquid as it was a bit dry. Delicious all the same! My toddler actually finished her bowl.

  6. Made with leftover Christmas ham as written, except I saved about 1/4 cup of pasta water and mixed that in since it was a little dry imo. I’d probably reduce parmesan too, I think a couple tbsp would be fine. Delicious overall!

  7. Made this for Christmas Eve dinner and it was fantastic! Super easy to make and tastes amazing. I didn’t have ditalini so I used fusilli instead. I also added some sautéed mushrooms.