This quick and easy ham and peas pasta is a great use for leftover ham. Glossed with a light Parmesan sauce even the kids will love, it's just like the classic Italian Pasta alla Papalina!
One of my favorite ways to use leftover holiday ham is making a quick pasta. And not just any pasta, one that takes only 30 minutes of hands on time, and tastes just like the Italian restaurant up the street!
The Italian name for Pasta with Ham and Peas
If you're in your favorite Italian restaurant and remember that divine dish the waiter suggested last time, it might be called Pasta alla Papalina. When you ask: I can't remember that pasta with ham and peas' Italian name. Look for Pasta alla Papalina.
It's the traditional Italian dish with ham, sometimes pancetta, and peas in a creamy sauce. When you get the authentic dish in Italian restaurants the sauce is rich and not too creamy. Other places will serve a sauce like an Alfredo, but I like the broth Parmesan sauce. Just silky with a touch of cream.
According to The Pasta Project, alla Papalina refers to the Pope's skullcap, and this pasta dish was created at Pope Pius XII's request!
The same flavors are often in combination with Tortellini stuffed with a Parmesan filling. I used Orecchiette instead, and added the Parmesan to the silky cream sauce.
Serving ham? Try one of these delicious sides for ham dinner.
Ham pasta with sweet peas
Ham pasta recipes are in and of themselves on the salty side. Roast or cured ham is delightfully savory and I love to pair it with sweet peas.
I use frozen peas, for ease, but also because they are flash frozen at their peak and truly are the best option here. I use them in my Quick Pea Soup that has just a few ingredients and their flavor really shines.
Honestly, you don't even have to let the peas thaw. You can let the warm sauce and pasta heat them through in the pan on the stove.
How to make Pasta with leftover Ham
Any cook's arsenal should be filled with diced ham recipes after the holidays. A pasta with ham, sweet peas, some herbs and a creamy sauce is one of my favorites.
The ingredients are pretty simple and there are only a few steps:
- Cook pasta in salted water and reserve about 1 cup of the water when draining the pasta.
- Make a sauce with flour, butter and chicken broth.
- Add seasonings and Parmesan then stir in a bit of cream.
- Finish by stirring together the sauce with pasta, peas and diced ham, adding a little pasta water to make a thin, glossy sauce.
- Garnish with loads of fresh basil.
What kind of pasta goes with ham and peas?
I used orecchiette pasta, translated it means "little ears." The little cup shape is so perfect for holding the diced ham and peas with a little of the sauce. So each bite is perfection.
You can absolutely use other pasta shapes. Pasta shapes that would work for this recipe are:
- bow ties or Farfalle
- small shells
- macaroni or elbows
What are ham alternatives?
If you want an alternative I'd suggest diced pancetta or bacon. Both would be delicious and just need to be cooked in a skillet before adding to the pasta. Use half as much since those cured meats are very strong in flavor.
Salmon would also be lovely in this dish. I use salmon in pasta and it's delish! Flake cooked salmon into the recipe when you would add the ham.
I think the saltiness of ham is perfect for this pasta with peas and cream sauce, so I wouldn't suggest chicken or beef.
Roast ham recipes
More recipes with Leftover Roast Ham:
Parmesan Pasta with Peas and Ham
- 1 pound oriechette or other pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano)
- ¾ cup Finely grated Parmesan
- 1½ cups frozen peas thawed
- 8 ounces cooked ham, diced (1½ cups)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Fresh basil for serving
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or large high-sided non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Whisk in broth, stirring until any flour lumps are gone. Add salt, red pepper flakes and oregano and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat and allow sauce to simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
- When sauce is viscous, add Parmesan and stir until cheese has melted, about 2 minutes. Add the peas, ham and reserved pasta. Then stir in heavy cream. Heat through and serve immediately garnished with plenty of basil. If pasta and sauce thickens too much, stir in some of the reserved pasta water to make it saucy again.
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