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Tiny Shells with Peas + Asparagus

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Super Fast
  • Vegetarian
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Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

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Why we love it:

You could use whatever pasta you like but the tiny shells hold on to sauce and sometimes curl around a pea in a way that I very much enjoy. This pasta is unbeatable when served immediately after it’s made, but leftovers can be warmed up in the microwave.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 10 ounces Shells Pasta (small size, a box is usually a pound, sometimes I cook it all)
  • 1 Yellow Onion (small)
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (divided)
  • 1 pound Asparagus
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice)
  • 2 cups Frozen Peas
  • 2 cups Parmesan Cheese (grated, divided)
  • 12 teaspoon Black Pepper (freshly grated)
  • 4 ounces Burrata Cheese
  • Crusty Bread (Italian style, for serving, optional)

Cooking Instructions

  • 1. BRING A LARGE PASTA POT OF WATER TO A BOIL

    Add a Tablespoon or more of salt so it tastes quite salty - like the ocean.

  • 2. PASTA

    Cook the shells according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water before draining the shells. Drain about one minute before you would typically consider the pasta fully cooked (it will finish in the sauce).

  • 3. ASPARAGUS + PEAS

    Meanwhile, dice the onion small. In a large sauté pan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and add the onion. Remove the very ends of the asparagus, then slice into small pieces on a dramatic angle. Add to the pan and sauté with the onion for 2 minutes. Zest in the lemon and add its juice as well.

    Add the peas; it’s ok if they’re still frozen.

  • 4. SAUCE

    When the pasta is drained, add it to the pan. Add the ½ cup of pasta cooking water and simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the rest of the butter and ½ of the parmesan cheese. Turn off heat and toss until butter is melted.

  • 5. SERVING

    Serve immediately in large bowls and dot with pieces of burrata. Garnish with the remaining parmesan and black pepper to taste; serve with crusty bread.

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Substitutions

  • GLUTEN FREE:
    make with GF pasta, omit or sub GF bread
  • DAIRY FREE:
    omit parmesan and consider a pinch of nutritional yeast or a dollop of DF ricotta
  • PESCATARIAN:
    add shrimp while sauteing the onion, or finish with flakes of smoked salmon
  • WINE:
    if I had a bottle of white wine open, I’d add a few Tablespoons with the lemon
  • BURRATA:
    optional, or add small balls of fresh mozzarella
  • PARMESAN:
    pecorino is good too but it’s the kind of pasta that really requires a block of parmigiano reggiano freshly grated - pre-grated cheese has anti-caking agents which won’t melt into the sauce

Kid Friendly Version

Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

How to Tweak This Recipe for Kids:

  • At every step you can remove ingredients and keep them separate for kids
  • Pull out some cooked asparagus
  • Cook the peas in a separate pot or microwave them
  • Leave some pasta separate and toss with butter and parmesan; perhaps a bit of lemon
  • Add or swap the peas with a vegetable they will accept, perhaps broccoli or cauliflower - sometimes I boil a few florets with the pasta and use tongs to remove them after draining

For Toddlers

  • Add some protein with a cooked egg, or a scoop of hummus or yogurt on the side
  • Serve with some fruit

For Choosy Eaters

  • Serve the pasta with butter and parmesan with just a few peas (or vegetable they like) on the side
  • Add fruit and bread

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

This is best served immediately after cooking, but if helpful, you could grate the parmesan cheese and slice the asparagus – use within 24 hours

Rate this recipe:
2 votes, average: 3.50 out of 52 votes, average: 3.50 out of 52 votes, average: 3.50 out of 52 votes, average: 3.50 out of 52 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5 (2 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)
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