Could Not Have Been Easier

I guess it’s not breaking news that pasta dinners are faster than most, but because I tend to plan around the pasta-hater in my house, I don’t get to make these kinds of dishes as often as I’d like. And when I do, and they turn out as deliciously as this Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham (Meal #2 of 7 in my Seven Days, Seven Dinners challenge), I am reminded why I keep trying to fight the good pasta fight. I love Orecchiette here because it scoops up the peas and ham without requiring too much concentrating. (Have you ever tried to have spaghetti with peas? By the time I’m done with dinner and all that twirling and scooping and balancing, my brain hurts.) We used some crazy mail-order country ham (more on that later), but any old ham or pancetta would be fine. Whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for lunch the next day — or in our case, whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for the diner not enjoying the real dinner at the table.

Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham

1 pound of orecchiette
handful frozen peas to taste
salt and pepper
shake or two of red pepper flakes
olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 or 3 slices of Country Ham (or ham or a handful of pancetta pieces)
1/2 cup Parmsean, plus extra for serving
2 pats butter
handful freshly chopped mint or parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions.  When it has one more minute of cooking, toss frozen peas into the water with the pasta. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water then drain in a colander, drizzling a little olive oil into pasta to prevent sticking. Return pot to the stove and over medium heat, add a few glugs of olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook about a minute, stirring. Add ham and cook until slightly crisp. Add pasta and peas to the pot and stir everything to combine. Add cheese and butter and a drizzle of reserved pasta water to make the cheese distribute evenly. Serve in bowls with more cheese and herbs.

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Sara D

Totally making this for dinner ASAP, with shrimp instead of the ham since we’re pescetarian! It’ll fit into our homemade dinner marathon. I’m shooting for the rest of the month or more, with Friday night breaks. (Inspired by your book/blog of course.) I’ve found about a zillion ideas from Sarah Carey’s Everyday Food videos; we’re trying this one tonight:

Thanks for the inspiration!


Orecchiette is my most favorite pasta. This looks amazing, and will be added to the menu for next week. Your book and your blog, I don’t think I’d love dinner as much without you!


That looks easy and good! Just like what I’m making tonight – your roasted salmon and brussel sprouts with ginger-scallion dressing. The dressing is DELICIOUS! So thank you, Jenny, for tonight’s meal!

Lori@ In My Kitchen, In My Life

Tonight’s dinner is a crazy casserole — tuna, ostensibly — but really I’m using some fromage fort I had chasing around in the fridge from the holidays. If I told them they were eating ground, dried-out Manchego blended with garlic, onion, whine, and prunes in there with the tuna and noodles, they’d die a fast death. But since they can’t tell, and it tastes good…
…it’s just between me and all of you hundreds of readers, ok?

Julie C

I made the Olympic chicken — used all 10 garlic cloves and I can still taste it! But it was delicious and everyone gobbled it up. That will be a repeater!

Heather H.

I’m liking Sara D.’s idea of Orecchiette with SHRIMP and peas since I don’t have any ham on hand, but I do have shrimp in the freezer. This will be Friday’s dinner, I’m thinking. That’ll make 4 new recipes this work week! Thanks for the inspiration!


I don’t eat ham and I am liking the idea of shrimp with this! Dinner tomorrow night! Thanks!


my BIL is a hobby farmer, which means we frequently buy whole animals from him. Over the holiday break, we came home with a whole pig for the deep freeze. And while I like pig in moderation, I’m racking my brain how to use it. My four kids will thank you for this one, and it’s now on next week’s menu!


Will you tell us about the crazy mail-order country ham? Ham is one of those things that I only want to eat if it’s really good quality – bad ham is awful. Thanks!

Kim and Carlinne @ Cook with 2 Chicks

New adventures in our kitchens this week……
*Roasted swiss chard stems and tri-colored peppers.
*Garlic bread with parmesan and cheddar cheese.
*Parmeson encrusted-tilapia.
*Homemade corn tortillas with our own taco seasoning blend.
*Creamy buttermilk blue cheese dressing with a bit of heat.
*Salmon, tilapia and chicken seasoned with a blend we’re developing.
*101 Cookbooks’ Moroccan Carrot Chick Pea Salad.

Jennifer P

@designhermomma – dice ham, mix with shredded cheddar cheese, bind with small amount of white sauce with some Dijon mustard. Put it between two sheets of puff pastry and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. It’s pretty and tasty and super easy!!!

Jenny C

We are up to 6 new dishes – one was a breakfast baked good, one a spread (pumpkin, Parm, walnuts – like a squash hummus!) used for lunches, and one a side dish. This was our interpretation of the challenge. And we won’t get to cook new item #7 until this weekend. With only 3 in the household, we are full up with leftovers through Wednesday, I have a work dinner Thursday, and Friday is “kids night out” at the Y, so hubby & I will eat out or bring takeout in to watch a movie!


I have one fairly picky 4-y-o, and he had THREE helpings of this. We used pancetta and asparagus (instead of peas) since the veg was about to turn the corner. Delicious!


I’m making this tonight. TJs has pancetta already chopped! I love this shape pasta too. Hope the family eats it. We are not usually ham eaters but this looked very tasty.


Well, well, another recipe from DALS that has been inhaled and requested each week. Dang this was so easy I almost feel guilty. But not guilty enough that I continue to make it every week and a half. And then the ultimate compliment came when my 6 yr old asked for it in…her lunchbox. My 2 yr old picks around the peas so I started adding tiny broccoli florets. I figure there must be a pea or two slipping down her throat in the meantime!

Emily T

I don’t get it… The first time I made this everyone went wild. They called the orchiette “caps for sale!” and devoured it all… (There are 3 of them). But the next two times the oldest (5) refused. Is he fatigued already? What the heck? How can I get a handful of family favorites if he is changing like this …. Argh!!


This is so darn good. I’ve been in love with your cookbooks and your blog for a few years now and this is the first time I’ve commented! I made this dish again tonight but -doh- forgot that I was out of regular pasta and had 2 starving toddlers so I found cheese tortellini and – bam! Huge hit. AND i got to skip the cheese-grating 😉