Conservation tip: pasta di piselli


If you’re ever in Italy in the right season, be sure to order pasta di piselli when you have an opportunity. This is one of those deceptively simple dishes that Italians are capable of elevating to something sublime.

And if you can’t swing the plane fare, you can come up with a good approximation at home. The pea season is sadly short — we’re already at the tail end of it. My web hunting for the dish I remembered from Italy proved surprisingly fruitless, so I made up the recipe below. Response so far has been good.

Note: this is not vegetarian, but you can of course skip the pancetta.


1 lb English peas (sugar snaps can also work, but make sure they’re big)
2 oz pancetta (roughly a 1/4 inch slice), cut into strips or chunks
1 shallot, minced
A few sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
3/4 lb pasta (Orecchiette work well. Ditto for fusilli or farfalle or even fettuccine.)
2 Tb butter
Olive oil
Grated parmesan


  1. Shell the peas. This is the only time-consuming step. Everything else can be done in less time than it takes to cook the pasta.
  2. Place the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
  3. Brown the pancetta in some olive oil in a pan set over medium heat.
  4. Add the butter to the pan. When the foaming subsides, add the minced shallots and cook until translucent.
  5. Add the peas, thyme, and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook a few minutes, until peas are just tender. Remove from the heat.
  6. When the pasta is al dente, return the pan to the heat. Drain the pasta, toss it quickly in the pan to coat in the sauce, and add grated parmesan. Serve immediately with more cheese on the side for sprinkling.


  1. If you live in New York, you can shell the peas on the subway ride home. People will think you’re crazy — crazy like a fox!
  2. Cherries are also in season now. Dessert suggestion: cherries and a bar of dark chocolate.

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  1. Anonymous - July 18, 2007

    Wow- that sounds great… I didn’t expect recipes from this newsletter and am now doubly glad I suscribed!

  2. Anonymous - July 18, 2007

    This sounds good, thanks. It would help of you had a “printable view” link to print it out.

  3. Huh?? - July 18, 2007

    What am I missing here….? While this recipe does sound delicious, just what is the point of having it, esp. under the heading of “conservation tip?” You mention that peas are no longer in season and imply that the best way to eat it is in Italy.
    I”m not trying to be a curmudgeon, I’m just genuinely perplexed. I have worked many years in sustainable food system work and if this is the best you can come up with for “eating sustainably” then get thee back to your nearest CSA!

  4. Adam Stein - July 18, 2007

    I think they’re still in season, but not for too much longer. That was the only point — a low-meat recipe with ingredients that can be sourced locally in much of the country right now.
    Good idea about the printing. I will set that up.

  5. Anonymous - July 18, 2007

    I love this dish. However, when I was in Italy it was called “Pasta CON piselli” (or “Pasta Con I Piselli”). Just a nit-picky detail, to avoid calling it “pasta made of peas” (that would probably taste a little weird). Also, a great herb to substitute for thyme is mint. Yummy.

  6. Carey - July 18, 2007

    Love the tip on a nice simple recipe using local ingredients. I hope to have this for tonight’s dinner. Keep em coming!

  7. lkhoyt - July 18, 2007

    This recipe turns out really well using (locally-sourced, for those of us below the Mason-Dixon line) country ham. It gets a lot of flavor out of a small amount of meat and reflects a sensible use of animal products–the ham is practically a condiment. Thanks for posting!

  8. kfc coleslaw recipe - August 1, 2008

    hmm, looks great and simple.