This vegetarian creamy pea pasta is quick and easy to make, and it tastes delicious! Some links in this article are affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
I admit I love pasta and carbs. While a simple cacio e pepe may always have my heart as my favorite, this pasta captured my heart and the heart of my family.
Though it’s a “creamy” pasta recipe, it isn’t heavy like so many are, which means I can enjoy this year round. I based this recipe off one I saw on a box, but then I changed it up because I disagreed with some of their ingredients and steps.
I love this recipe partly because, for me, it’s a pantry pasta recipe that requires I purchase nothing. It takes just 20 minutes to toss it together, which is great for those busy weeknight dinners when I’m starving now, not later.
What can I add to this pasta to make it even more yummy?
As written, this recipe is vegetarian, but it still has plenty of delicious flavor. If you want to amp it up even more, I have some great ideas that I add sometimes when I have them on hand.
This tastes fantastic when you add some prosciutto to it. The smoky flavor is a perfect complement to the rest of the dish.
I add two thin slices of prosciutto that I chop into bite size pieces. I add these when I add the peas so it crisps up a bit.
Add more varieties of cheese for even more flavor. Cheese pizza, for example, is great, but four cheese pizza is even better. See below for some of my favorite cheese recommendations.
Add some lemon zest to the sauce just before you toss the pasta into it. Use just a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.
I don’t add lemon juice because this can so easily curdle the sauce, and I don’t want you to run into that issue.
What wine should I use for the creamy pasta sauce?
Whenever you cook with wine, you want to use a wine that tastes good – one you would drink, especially when you need only a third of a cup for this recipe. Don’t buy “cooking wine,” as they taste terrible.
This recipe uses a dry white wine, as you want the mineral notes rather than a sweet or oaky wine. For that reason, I don’t use a Chardonnay or Reisling.
Instead, go for a pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. And no, you don’t need a super expensive bottle of wine, so grab something tasty but under $15.
What if I don’t drink wine?
No problem! While the dry white wine adds a great bump in flavor, you can easily substitute stock in its place.
Use chicken stock if you can, or use vegetable stock if you wish to keep it vegetarian. This simple pasta recipe works without wine.
I make homemade chicken stock, which is easy to do.
Don’t use bouillon cubes, as they’re basically just a pile of salt. Instead get boxed chicken stock or use something like Better than Bouillon if you don’t make your own stock.
What cheese should I use?
I love the flavor of manchego, but it isn’t the most common cheese. To boost flavor, I like to add a little fresh grated parmesan to the manchego, and that’s always a good call no matter what cheese you choose.
Feel free to add a little extra parmesan to the top once you’ve divided the pasta among bowls.
Instead of manchego, you can use gruyere, gouda, emmenthaler, taleggio, or fontina. Or use a mix of them. They all melt well and have a flavor that works well within this dish.
One caveat: grate your own cheese. When you buy pregrated cheese, they add anticaking agents so the cheese doesn’t stick in the package, but that also keeps it from melting cleanly and changes the taste.
What pasta shapes do I use?
For this comforting pasta, I like using mini shell pasta for the pasta shapes, but you can choose other small pasta for this.
I can see bowtie pasta (farfalle), fusilli, or even wagon wheel pasta working well. Yes, traditional elbow macaroni, too.
This would work well with gluten free pasta or whole wheat pasta shapes. The key is to cook the pasta according to package instructions less a minute so that the pasta finishes in the cream sauce.
Do not use a long pasta like spaghetti or linguine, as this recipe doesn’t work well for it. It doesn’t capture the ingredients as well in a single bite.
What if I don’t have shallots?
I admit, of all the ingredients in this creamy vegetarian pasta recipe, shallots are the one I’m most likely to not have on hand. You can substitute yellow onion for shallots.
When I make this substitute, I make sure to chop the onion more finely than I normally would. Why? Shallots are smaller and have thinner layers than onions.
In addition, I use a little more than 1/3 cup of chopped onion in place of the half cup of chopped shallot. This substitute works well.
What can I use instead of fresh dill?
So dill tastes amazing in this dish, and fresh dill is so good.
In fact, my dill in my garden rarely gets to grow because I use it constantly in egg salad and to make refrigerator dill pickles. (Bacon egg salad is my favorite, but a dill egg salad runs a close second.)
That said, if you can’t find fresh dill at the store or elsewhere, you can replace it with fresh mint leaves instead. This changes the flavor profile of the dish somewhat, but peas and mint go nicely together.
I do not advise using dried herbs (either mint or dill) in this dish. If you need to use dried, however, you can in a pinch.
For dried herbs, always use one third the amount that you do for fresh herbs. In this case, use just one teaspoon rather than a tablespoon.
To have the flavors come through, you need to add them earlier in the process and not as a finishing flavor. Add dried herbs when you add the peas so the heat releases the oils and flavors.
Is this recipe truly vegetarian?
Yes, it absolutely is. The creamy pasta sauce uses wine in place of chicken broth (which many have), and adding any meat, whether prosciutto or even pancetta, is an add on, not a part of the recipe.
Can I make this creamy pasta vegan?
In fact, you can make this a vegan pasta, if you choose. The only dairy in the recipe comes from the cheese. There are so many dairy free cheeses now that come in so many flavors. Use your favorite vegan cheese that melts well, and have at it!
Why do I need cornstarch?
Cornstarch has a couple uses, though the most common reason to add cornstarch is to thicken a sauce. In addition, cornstarch helps prevent sauces from breaking without adding additional flavor.
When you make a creamy sauce, it can separate or curdle if you heat it too much or add too much acid or or or…. The cornstarch helps create a sauce that does what you want more easily, and it lets you reheat it more safely, too.
When you add cornstarch, you always want to add it to a cool liquid first. Generally, you add it to water, mix it into a slurry with a fork, and then pour that into your sauce. Here you can add it to your wine or chicken broth before you add that slurry to the heat.
What is the best way to reheat this pasta?
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this recipe does reheat well. The key is to save some of your pasta water.
The starchy pasta cooking water doesn’t go into your sauce directly, but always save some whenever you make a pasta dish for when you want to reheat it. This helps keep your pasta from getting too dry when you enjoy leftovers.
How to Make Creamy Pea Pasta
Prep your ingredients:
Remove your peas from the freezer and let them thaw. You don’t want to add frozen peas to this creamy sauce.
Grate your cheese, and set it aside in a bowl. It’s fine to mix the cheeses. I use my wide ribbon grater, since it’s a relatively small amount of cheese, but a food processor is always faster.
Chop your dill coarsely, then set it aside until your creamy sauce finishes.
Add water to your pasta pot and salt it well. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but cook it for one minute less than the package says.
Once it finishes cooking, drain pasta and set it aside. If you time the sauce well, you may drain it and add it directly to the sauce as it finishes.
While the water heats and the pasta cooks, prepare your cheesy cream sauce.
Chop your shallot, then place a large wide, shallow pan on your stove and turn it to medium heat. Slice your garlic cloves as thinly as you can.
Once the pan heats, add the oil and then the chopped shallot. Let it cook a minute or two, stirring periodically.
Add the garlic, and stir. Carefully add the peas after a minute, and turn the heat down slightly.
While the peas cook, mix your cornstarch slurry. Add the cornstarch to your cold chicken broth or wine, and stir with a fork.
Add the slurry and milk to the pan and let it cook for a minute. Do not let it boil, or this will ruin your sauce.
Slowly add the grated cheese in small handfuls to keep it from clumping. Stir it as you go, and add more only after the previous handful melts and incorporates.
Grate black pepper into the sauce, and add your drained pasta. Toss to coat the mini shells with sauce, and top with fresh dill.
Save this creamy pea pasta recipe for next time, too!
- 12 ounces mini shells
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 cup shallot, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 cup manchego cheese, grated
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
- Grate cheese and set aside. Chop dill and set aside. Thaw peas and set aside.
- Cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions, then drain.
- While pasta cooks, make the creamy sauce. Heat a large shallow pan on medium heat.
- Chop shallots and slice garlic while pan heats. Add oil to pan once hot, then add shallots and cook 2-3 minutes.
- Add garlic and turn heat down slightly. Cook 1 minute, then add peas.
- Mix cornstarch into cold/room temperature wine, and mix with a fork. Add wine and milk to pan and let thicken slightly.
- Add cheese in small handfuls, stirring between each addition. Add pepper, then drained pasta and toss to coat pasta with sauce.
- Top with chopped dill, and serve immediately.
- You can use chicken stock in place of wine
- See notes in the article above for additional tips and suggestions
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 376Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 219mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 19g
This site uses an outside source to provide nutrition as a courtesy. If you need exact values, please calculate yourself.
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