Ditalini Pasta with Peas

This is also known as Ditalini con Piselli.


serves 4
400 g (14 oz) rigati pasta
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) shelled fresh or 300g/101/2oz frozen baby peas
200 g (7 oz) fresh ricotta sieved
200 g (7 oz) ham in one piece
2 tbsp of Sicilian olive oil
a small finely chopped onion
a packet of saffron fronds, pounded with pestle and mortar
salt and pepper
pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated for serving


1. Chop the ham into small dice about the size of peas.

2. Place the onion in the cold olive oil, season with coarse sea salt and soften without colouring. Add a teaspoon of water from time to time to stop it frying and colouring. Cook till wilted and opaque, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the peas and enough water to just cover. Season with salt and pepper and cook till tender - 5 to 15 minutes for fresh peas depending on freshness and size. Add the diced ham, stir through and turn the heat off.

4. In the meantime, soak the saffron in an espresso coffee cup/small bowl of very hot water or two ladles of hot water and put the pasta pot on for the water to boil.

5. When the peas are cooked, stir the strained saffron liquor into the peas off the heat and add the ricotta, ideally sieving it through a potato ricer. You want the ricotta to melt into the cooking liquids so it becomes a golden sauce.

6. Turn the heat off or keep just warm till the pasta is done. Drain the pasta more or less well according to the consistency of your sauce. If it seems dry, then leave some liquid on the pasta; if it is of the right consistency, then drain the pasta very thoroughly. If it is really dry, add a little of the pasta cooking water to the pea and ricotta sauce to dilute it.

7. Immediately toss the cooked pasta in the sauté pan so it is thoroughly coated with the sauce and serve at once with the grated pecorino passed round separately.

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