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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.


  • 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


    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).


    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.

Check out our new features!


    make with GF pasta, omit or sub GF bread
    omit parmesan and consider a pinch of nutritional yeast or a dollop of DF ricotta
    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
    optional, or add small balls of fresh mozzarella
    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:
3 votes, average: 4.00 out of 53 votes, average: 4.00 out of 53 votes, average: 4.00 out of 53 votes, average: 4.00 out of 53 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5 (3 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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