Creamy Lemon Pasta with Peas and Optional Ham

This easy pasta dish goes from stove to table in about 25 minutes. The creamy, garlicky lemon sauce coats every little piece of perfectly al dente pasta, spring peas, and optional diced ham for the carnivores.

Total Time: 25 minutes

This pasta dish has been on my mind for some time. And, yeah, it’s been in my stomach more than a few times, too. First, I had to get the recipe just right. Then, I had a heckuva time getting decent photos of the stuff, so I had to keep making it. Over and over and over.

n pasta with peas and optional ham for the meat-eaters | Kitchen Treaty

Gosh. Bummer.

Just last night, I whipped up a batch, and with my rental camera (my poor full-time camera is in the shop hopefully regaining its former glory), I was able to snap at least some semi-decent pics. And so now I can finally share with you. Woo hoo!

n pasta with peas and optional ham for the meat-eaters | Kitchen Treaty

This pasta? It’s divine. Creamy, lemony, aaaah. Really super addicting, actually. I highly recommend it.

It came to mind a few weeks ago when I was whipping up a batch of lemon spaghetti for a quick dinner and simultaneously dreaming of this orecchiette pasta with creamy ale sauce from The Beeroness. Those peas! So perfectly cradled inside each bit of orecchiette!

I had to have creamy orecchiette with cradled peas in my life, and I had to have it right away.

n pasta with peas and optional ham for the meat-eaters | Kitchen Treaty

And then I had to have it again, and again, and again, until it was perfect, and until I could get at least passable photos to share with you.

I’ll probably have to make it several more times just to make sure I got it exactly right.

Sorry, honey. At least you get a good amount of ham in your half. (Actually, I don’t think my guy is complaining, either. He’s never been huge on lemon, but he does love this stuff.)

This pasta dish goes from stove to table in about 25 minutes, but it tastes like it took far longer. It uses the same creamy, garlicky lemon sauce as the lemon spaghetti recipe, then I added perfect little peas for a touch of green and spring. Our beloved meat-eaters get the smoky addition of ham (perfect for using up the last of those Easter leftovers). I love using orecchiette with this sauce – the creamy goodness collects in all the little dips and curves. Divine.

You know I had to use orechiette as per my aforementioned obsession, but shells or penne would be marvelous, too.

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Peas and Optional Ham

Yield: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

This easy pasta dish goes from stove to table in about 25 minutes. The creamy, garlicky lemon sauce coats every little piece of perfectly al dente pasta, spring peas, and optional diced ham for the carnivores.


  • 1/2 pound (or 8 ounces) small pasta like orecchiette, shells, or mini penne
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Pinch - ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, depending on taste
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced (approx. 1 tablespoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1 cup pasta water (the water the pasta has been cooking in - not normally mentioned in lists of ingredients but it's an important part of the recipe so I'm mentioning it to be safe!)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small handful of parsley, chopped (about 1/4 cup chopped)
  • If adding ham
  • 1/4 cup chopped, cooked ham per serving


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook about one minute less than package directions state until al dente. When one minute is left in the cooking time, add the frozen peas.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, heat a large deep skillet over low heat and add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes until garlic is tender.
  3. To the garlic, add 1 cup of the water the pasta is boiling in, along with the lemon juice and the heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens just a bit, about 5 minutes. Stir in the the lemon zest and 1 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and add additional salt if necessary (if the sauce tastes too lemony, add a little more salt until the tartness mellows.)
  4. If adding ham, place an additional skillet on the stove and heat the diced ham over low heat, stirring frequently
  5. Drain the pasta and peas and and add it to the main skillet with the sauce. Remove the skillet from the heat and gently toss the pasta with the sauce until the pasta soaks in some of the sauce, about two minutes.
  6. Scoop the carnivorous portion(s) into the saucepan with the ham and mix gently.
  7. Top with the parsley and remaining Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Adapted from Food Network

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Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.

11 Responses to “Creamy Lemon Pasta with Peas and Optional Ham”

  1. I’ve had a lot of those recipes lately too. Making them again and again to get the recipe right, then having to make them a few more times to get the photos right. But this one looks like it was totally worth it. 🙂

  2. Oh how yummy! I love lemony pastas, they’re one of my favorites, so there’s no doubt I’d love this. Pinned!

  3. I love how shells and orecchiette cradle little peas and beans! They are the perfect matching pasta shape!!! Plus I love how the hold a nice thick creamy cheese sauce – its a big bite of cheesey deliciousness!

  4. Yum! I love lemon added to pasta dishes! Lightens up the dishes so nicely. I’ll try this recipe for sure. Happy weekend! xo

  5. sounds like a nice spring pasta dish!

  6. My 5 year old and I made this for lunch today. It looked delicious in the photo. I was a bit nervous about the lemon, since I’ve never had lemon flavored sauce on pasta. I was surprised that the lemon flavor was not overwhelming in the least bit!! We used bowtie pasta since that’s all I had. It had a very light spring flavor to it and I was pleasantly surprised at the results. I made the mistake of adding the ham to the sauce before the pasta, so all of the cheese clung to the ham instead of the pasta, which produced large clumps of cheese (those were a bit overwhelming). Next time, if I even add the ham since I think it would be lovely with out it, I’ll be sure to add the ham AFTER everything else. All in all I found this delightful as did the friend I shared it with and her 5 year old.

    • My husband is not the biggest lemon fan so I was a little nervous when I first made this – but, yes, it’s really not overwhelming! Thanks for the note about the ham – I’ll have to take another look at the recipe directions and just make sure that’s clear. So glad you, your friend, and her little one liked it. 🙂

  7. Perfect, just perfect. Thank you.

    I subbed shallots for garlic. Delicious.

  8. Has anyone tried this as a cold pasta salad for a picnic/cook out situation?  I’m curious how it would be without being fresh from the stove.

  9. Thanks for the great recipe! I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s a great way to use up leftover ham – a firm favourite in our house!

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