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Tiny Shells with Peas + Ham

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Super Fast
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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)
  • 12 pound Ham (boneless, thick cut steak)
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice)
  • 2 cups Frozen Peas
  • 2 cups Parmesan Cheese (grated, divided)
  • 12 teaspoon Black Pepper (freshly grated)
  • 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).

  • 3. HAM + PEAS

    Meanwhile, dice the onion small. In a large sauté pan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and add the onion. Dice the ham into cubes that are about the size of a pea or slightly larger. Add to pan and sauté with the onion until both have lightly golden edges. 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 with crusty bread and garnish with the remaining parmesan and black pepper to taste.

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    make with GF pasta, omit or sub GF bread
    omit parmesan and consider a pinch of nutritional yeast or a dollop of DF ricotta
  • HAM:
    small cubes of precooked chicken, shredded chicken, or you can use raw chicken but be sure and cook it thoroughly. Try bacon, prosciutto or pancetta too - or sausages
  • WINE:
    if I had a bottle of white wine open, I’d add a few Tablespoons with the lemon
    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

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

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

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