- 12 ounces rigatoni
- Sea salt
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 medium-sized onion (about 1/2 cup), chopped fine
- 1 cup fresh peas
- 6 ounces cooked ham (about 1 cup), cut into narrow strips
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 pound Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup), preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 3 tbsp mint leaves, coarsely chopped, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Boil the rigatoni in lots of salted water, following the directions on the package and tasting for doneness.
- Remove from the heat and drain the pasta in a colander.
- While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in a large skillet and add the onion and a pinch of salt.
- Cover and sweat over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the peas, ham, cream, and cheese.
- Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the cream has thickened but the sauce is still a bit soupy.
- Add the drained rigatoni and stir to thoroughly coat it with the sauce.
- Stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped mint, and spoon the mixture into a large, shallow, warm bowl.
- Sprinkle black pepper and the remaining tablespoon of mint over the top and serve immediately.
Looking for more information on cooking with mint, plus ways to use fresh spring peas in your kitchen? Try Peas and Mint: A Perfect Pair in Your Kitchen and Garden for simple spring pea recipes and mint recipes.
Barbara Damrosch is always seeking new ways of cooking with mint and fresh spring peas at Four Season Farm in Maine. She’s the co-author of The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.
For those who like their pasta minus the red sauce, this recipe serves up flavorful northern Italian food made with rigatoni, which are shaped like hollow, ridged tubes and are blunt-cut at the ends. You can substitute penne, or any favorite pasta shape, but the ridges in rigatoni make it especially good for holding sauce.
Enriched with cream, this pasta in white sauce makes a filling meal all by itself, with the protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable components all in one bowl. Although you can make this dish with frozen, thawed peas at any time of the year, I like it best when the peas are fresh and mint is growing in the garden. The peas and the onions give it a sweet taste, well-complemented by mint’s pungent punch.
My husband prefers sage or chives; you can substitute whichever fresh herb you choose. If substituting a dried herb, marjoram would be suitable. For a leaner version of pasta with peas and ham, replace the cream with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.