Growing up Italian, you eat a lot of pasta. Luckily, as a kid I could consume as much as I wanted and not pack on the pounds. Nowadays, we still have our pasta but we plan for it and make sure our other meals that day or the days before and after are not carb heavy. It’s our way to make sure we can still indulge and not throw ourselves off track health-wise.
This ultra-simple recipe was, and still is, a staple for us. My Grandma and my Mom both made versions of Macaroni & Peas and both were delicious. My guess is this is a dish that originated in Southern Italy. My family comes from Sicily but my friends whose families came from areas like Naples and Rome were not familiar with this rustic dish. I searched around for a comparable recipe online to give you accurate measurements and I couldn’t find one so what’s below is the formula that works for our family of three. You’ll have leftovers for sure, and with most pasta dishes this will taste better then next day.
My Macaroni & Peas recipe (for 3 of us):
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 3 slices of prosciutto
- 1 ¼ cups of frozen peas
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¾ lb of elbow macaroni
- Cheese, cheese and more cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Fill your pasta pot with water and put over high heat. While you’re waiting for your water, heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan until it starts to sizzle. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften, approximately 2 minutes. Add the prosciutto and cook for about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the frozen peas. When your pasta water reaches a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook for 8 minutes. Be sure to add salt to the water. Let your peas, prosciutto and onions cook while your pasta is cooking. Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and add salt to taste. Because this dish has prosciutto in it and will be topped with grated parmesan chees I tend to go a little lighter on the salt.
Before you drain your pasta, take a couple of scoops of pasta water out of the pot and add to your peas, prosciutto and onion mixture to make the sauce. I use about ¾ of a cup but you can add as much or as little as you like. If you like a soupier pasta dish, I recommend adding some chicken broth to give your sauce a little more flavor. By the time your pasta is cooked, so is your sauce. Combine in a large bowl and top with grated cheese.
If I want some richer flavor to this pasta, I’ll add a drizzle of olive oil to the top before serving. If I want to add some crunch, I’ll make prosciutto chips for us to crumble on top of our individual pasta plates. If you have leftover prosciutto you can make the chips by tearing the prosciutto into small sections and baking in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.