Celebrate the glorious flavor of peas with this traditional Italian side
Is there a more quintessential spring vegetable than green peas?
Mix them with salty prosciutto + tangy olive oil, and you have a dish that’s verging on the addictive.
We’ll understand if you want to lick your plate.
Recipe: Sautéed Peas with Prosciutto (or Pancetta)
This dish makes an excellent side for grilled or roast meat, fowl, or seafood. You could also serve it as a first course. Or all by itself for a light lunch or dinner.
This dish traditionally is made with prosciutto, but pancetta is a frequent substitution. We’ll happily use either.
You can find dozens of recipes for this dish, and most are quite similar. Marcella Hazen is the source for ours (we adapted it from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking).
This dish takes about 15 minutes to prep and cook.
The recipe yields 4 servings. Leftovers keep for a couple of days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced
- ~2 tablespoons prosciutto, chopped into dice of about ¼ inch (about 2 ounces; may substitute pancetta)
- 10- to 12-ounce package of frozen peas (no need to defrost)
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- salt as needed (we usually add this at table; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper as needed (again, we often add this at table)
- Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When it’s warm, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot (about 15 seconds – it’ll shimmer), add the chopped shallots and prosciutto, then sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the peas, then stir to coat them with the olive oil. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes (or until the peas are cooked through).
- Add the chopped parsley. Cook for another minute. Taste, then add salt and pepper if you like.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Prosciutto is pretty salty, so we usually don’t add salt to this dish. If you’re substituting pancetta (which is much less salty), you’ll probably need to add a bit of salt.
- Many grocers carry containers of chopped prosciutto and pancetta. If these aren’t available at your market, just buy a slice of prosciutto from the deli counter. Ask them to slice it ¼ inch thick, and you can dice it up at home.
- One common variation on this recipe skips the shallots and flavors the dish with garlic instead. If you want to try this: Sauté a whole clove of garlic in the olive oil until it’s just browned (no more than 2 minutes). Then remove the garlic (you’re using it to flavor the oil, not as part of the dish), add the prosciutto, and proceed with the recipe.
- Fresh, local peas would be great in this dish. But local ones are available for only a few weeks in the spring, so we generally use frozen peas when we make this dish. That’s no hardship, though – frozen peas have excellent flavor and are of good quality.
- We purchase frozen peas that are packed in 10- to 12-ounce packages. If using more (or less), adjust the recipe accordingly.
- If you’re using fresh peas, you’ll have to cook them longer. We usually add fresh peas to the frying pan in Step 2, then stir for a minute to coat them with olive oil. Then we add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan, cover it, and cook until the peas are done and the water has evaporated – about 10 to 15 minutes.
- BTW, you’ll need about 2 pounds of fresh peas in the shell to get 10 ounces shelled.
- You’ll taste the olive oil in this dish, so use good quality. We’ve seen recipes that increase the amount of olive oil from 2 to 4 tablespoons. The flavor is probably marvelous, but that would make for a very rich dish.
- Want a substitute for parsley? You could use chopped mint instead. Thyme or tarragon would probably work well too.
Two Peas in a Pod
“Love this dish!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I vote pro-sciutto.”
“It’s pretty a-pea-ling,” I said. “Cham-pea-on, you might say.”
“You’re a peas of work,” said Mrs K R.
“Hap-pea to oblige,” I said. “Seconds?”
“Pretty peas,” said Mrs K R.
Glad she didn’t tell me to peas off.
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