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.
1/2poundor 8 ounces small pasta like orecchiette, shells, or mini penne
Pinch- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakesdepending on taste
1large lemonzested and juiced (approx. 1 tablespoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
1cuppasta waterthe 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 1/2cupsgrated Parmesan cheesedivided
Salt and pepper to taste
Small handful of parsleychopped (about 1/4 cup chopped)
If adding ham
1/4cupchoppedcooked ham per serving
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.
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.
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.)
If adding ham, place an additional skillet on the stove and heat the diced ham over low heat, stirring frequently
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.
Scoop the carnivorous portion(s) into the saucepan with the ham and mix gently.
Top with the parsley and remaining Parmesan cheese, and serve.