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Pasta Ham and Peas In Creamy Parmesan Sauce

Use up your leftover ham or buy a ham steak to make this easy and quick dinner of pasta ham and peas in a creamy parmesan sauce.

Boil the pasta while you make the ham, veggies and sauce to get dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.

creamy pasta with peas and ham in bowl.

The dish is similar to a couple of popular Italian dishes, some of which use eggs, no peas and heavy cream. Pasta alla papalina is an example that incorporates eggs along with fettuccini, ham and cheese.

We are keeping our recipe on the lighter side (lower calories) by using broth and a splash of light cream instead of all heavy cream. We also use a smaller proportion of pasta.

Are fresh peas better than frozen? I love to use fresh sugar snap peas for this recipe – crunchy and fresh tasting. But for many dishes, frozen peas are better than fresh – at least according to Epicurious.

As always, you can put your own twist on the recipe – in this case by altering the pasta, protein, veggies or cheese. In other words, use the recipe as a guideline and change it up to suit your taste.

End result: This ham and pea pasta recipe is a yummy, creamy, comforting pasta dish that is totally versatile, unfussy and easy to make. A perfect dish for busy weeknights. Check out some good shortcuts below.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

chopped ham, snap peas, green onions, flour, broth, garlic, pesto, parsley, parmesan cheese.

Ham: Buy a ham steak, thick slice of ham or use leftover ham from a holiday dinner. No ham? Substitute sausage, chicken knackers, prosciutto, chicken or shrimp.

Pasta: I prefer to use smaller pasta to get more sauce per bite, but almost any will do. Try fusilli, penne, rigatoni, farfalle, bow tie noodles, orecchiette. Spaghetti, egg noodles, fettuccini and even gnocchi will work fine too. Use gluten-free pasta for a gluten-free version.

Veggies: I like to use roughly chopped snap peas for their vibrant color and crispness. Regular peas – fresh or frozen – are fine too. Variations: This dish is a great way to use up wilting veggies, so feel free to add or substitute the peas with red bell peppers, asparagus or mushrooms.

Cheese: The recipe calls for parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best), but you can swap it for any melty cheese you like such as cheddar, mozzarella or Gouda.

Seasoning: Parmesan contributes a lot of flavor as does the black pepper. I like to add a tablespoon or two of pesto (or chopped fresh basil leaves) and fresh parsley for extra color and flavor. Italian seasoning can be used instead. And you can always add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat.

Step by step instructions

pasta in colander.
Boil the pasta while you start the veggies and sauce.
ham, snap peas and green onions in skillet.
Sauté cubes of ham, snap peas, garlic and green onions in a frying pan for 2 minutes to release flavors.
ham, veggies, sauce, cheese and pesto in skillet before mixing.
Stir in flour, cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and stir to thicken. Add pesto, parsley and parmesan.
pasta added to veggies sauce and cheese in skillet.
Fold in drained pasta. Stir to combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
pasta with peas and ham in bowl.
pasta with peas and ham in bowl.
Serve with extra parmesan if you like.

Tips

Do not overcook the snap peas. They should be tender crisp. If you’re using regular peas instead, add them in the last minute or two as they cook quickly.

Cook off water from any veggies you are using before adding the flour to make the creamy sauce.

What to serve with ham and peas pasta

Serve this easy recipe on its own or with a simple salad. An easy tomato soup (using canned tomatoes) or a healthy ratatouille soup would also pair really well.

Shortcuts

  • Buy snap peas that have been washed and strings removed. Or use frozen or fresh peas (no chopping and less expensive).
  • Buy pre-grated parmesan cheese.
  • Store-bought fresh gnocchi will boil more quickly than most pasta.
  • Skip making the parmesan sauce and buy an Alfredo sauce!

Make ahead

  • Store leftovers for 2-3 days in the fridge
  • Reheat on the stove top, adding a bit of extra broth, water or cream to loosen t up. Or reheat, covered, in the microwave for 2 minutes with a bit of extra liquid.
  • May be frozen for up to 2 months.

Pea varieties for eating and cooking

You can use any kind of peas for this recipe. Fresh, frozen, in a pod or not.

Sweet peasSnap peasGreen peasFresh peas
Typeedible-podded peas edible-podded peas immature seeds of pea plantmature ripe seeds of pea plant
Also called..e.g. snap peassugar snap peasgarden peas or English peaspea vines
Use for:risotto, soup, stir friessalads, sautés, and stir-fries.stews, soup, saladsalads, sautés, and stir-fries.
Frozen or freshfrozen fresh fresh or frozenfresh
Can eat in a pod?NoYesNoNo
Info Source: Spruce Eats, Better Homes and Gardens
creamy pasta with peas and ham in bowl.

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creamy pasta with peas and ham in bowl.
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Pasta Ham and Peas In Creamy Parmesan Sauce

Use up your leftover ham or buy a ham steak to make this quick and easy weeknight dinner of pasta ham and peas in a creamy parmesan sauce. Dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.
Prep Time8 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces dry pasta, Note 1, about 2 cups (or fresh pasta)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound diced ham, Note 2 (about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm)
  • 1 1/2 cups snap peas, strings removed, roughly chopped Note 3
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (1 tsp chopped)

Parmesan sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup half and half cream
  • 1 tablespoon -2 pesto (optional) (or use 5-6 fresh basil leaves)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, Note 4
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste.

Instructions

  • BOIL PASTA; Boil pasta in large pot of salted water according to package directions. Cook to al dente or as soft as you like it. Drain and set aside. Fresh packaged gnocchi will take much less time.
  • SAUTE HAM AND VEGGIES: Heat a nonstick large skillet to medium-high heat. Add ham, green onions, garlic and snow peas. Cook for 2 minutes to release flavors.
  • MAKE PARMESAN SAUCE: Lower heat to medium heat. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add broth and cream. Cook to thicken, about 2-3 minutes. It will still be quite thin. Stir in parmesan, pesto or basil leaves, red pepper flakes (if using). The sauce will be thicker now, but will thicken more on standing.
  • FINISH AND SERVE: Stir in cooked pasta. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding black pepper, salt or more parmesan if needed), more pesto. Serve with extra parmesan if you like.

Recipe Notes

  1. Pasta options: I prefer to use smaller pasta to get more sauce per bite, but almost any will do. Try fusilli, penne, rigatoni, farfalle, bow tie noodles, orecchiette. Spaghetti, egg noodles, fettuccini and even gnocchi will work fine too. Use gluten-free pasta for a gluten-free version.
  2. Ham variations: Buy a ham steak, thick slice of ham or use leftover holiday ham. You can substitute with sausage, prosciutto, chicken or shrimp.
  3. Snap pea substitutes– instead, use about 1 cup fresh or frozen peas. Add them at the end as they only need a minute or two to cook. If you don’t like or have peas, try red bell peppers, asparagus or mushrooms instead. When sauteing, let water evaporate before adding the flour for the sauce.
  4. Cheese alternatives: you can swap the parmesan for any melty cheese you like such as cheddar, mozzarella or Gouda. Or nutritional yeast (vegan). 
  5. Shortcuts:
    • Buy snap peas that have been washed and strings removed. Or use frozen or fresh peas (no chopping and less expensive).
    • Buy pre-grated parmesan cheese.
    • Store-bought fresh gnocchi will boil more quickly than most pasta.
    • Skip making the parmesan cream sauce and buy an Alfredo sauce!
  6. Make ahead:
    • Store leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the fridge
    • Reheat on the stove top, adding a bit of extra broth, water or cream to loosen it up. Or reheat, covered, in the microwave for 2 minutes with a bit of extra liquid.
    • May be frozen for up to 2 months.
 
Nutritional values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Calories: 383kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 1676mg | Potassium: 270mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1535IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 3mg
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